(See Below for Case Law, Evidence of Public Attitudes, NGOs that Assist or Advocate on LGBTI issues, and Country of Origin LGBTI Specialists)
Article 14 of Japan’s Constitution guarantees fundamental human rights and prohibits discrimination on the basis of ‘race, sex, social status or family origin.’ However, this article does not guarantee equality to LGBTI persons. The failure to include sexual orientation in its anti-discrimination legislation essentially removes the possibility of an effective remedy for discrimination on those grounds. There is no independent institution to ensure the protection and promotion of human rights, which has led to repeated criticism by the UN Human Rights Council.
In 2002, the Japanese Ministry of Justice presented a draft bill of Human Rights protection that prohibited discrimination on grounds of sexual orientation. However, the National Diet (Japan’s legislature) failed to pass this bill in 2002, 2003, and 2005 and it has failed to be introduced to date.
The absence of laws protecting LGBTI individuals from discrimination enables several forms of differential treatment in the law. For instance, Public Housing Law and the law for the Prevention of Spousal Violence and the Protection of Victims apply only to same-sex couples (married or unmarried) and do not cover same-sex couples.
While Japan has been slow to change its understanding of LGBTI people, in recent years the Japanese government has taken positive steps towards protecting the rights of LGBTI individuals by changing a range of policies. For instance, the government now issues the legal document certifying single status for marriages abroad for both same-sex and opposite-sex couples. The government of Tokyo has passed laws banning discrimination in employment based on sexual orientation.
In 1997, the Japanese High Court held that the gay organisation OCCUR had an equal right to use a youth hostel operated by the Board of Education of the Tokyo Metropolitan Government. In this case, an LGBT youth group was denied permission to stay in a hostel operated by the Board of Education of the Tokyo Metropolitan Government. The LGBT youth group won their claim in the Japanese Court on the basis of Articles 21 and 26 of the Constitution guaranteeing freedom of assembly and association, and the right to an equal education. It is significant that this was decided on the basis of freedom of assembly and access to education, and underlines the omission of an anti-discrimination law in its Constitution.
PUBLIC ATTITUDES AND/OR STATE’S CAPACITY TO PROTECT
Known incidences of violence and discrimination
Human Rights Watch has highlighted that whilst Japan does not criminalize same-sex conduct, LGBTI individuals face everyday discrimination from their families, in the workplace, and in other social and professional settings.
State and political attitudes
It was only in 1994 that the Japanese Society of Psychiatry and Neurology changed its official stance on homosexuality and ceased classifying it as a disease or illness. Transgender people, however, are still portrayed as suffering from a ‘gender identity disorder’.
Additionally, there have been a growing number of openly gay and transgender people gaining positions in public office in Japan. In 2003, Aya Kamikawa was the first openly transgender politician to be elected to public office in Japan. In 2005, Kanako Otsuji became the first gay politician to come out at the Tokyo Gay Pride Festival. LGBTI politicians in Japan are uniting to give more voice to sexual minorities in government.
However, attitudes towards LGBTI issues in Japanese politics is mixed. For instance, Hiroyuki Inoue, a member of the Hyogo Prefectural Assembly, labelled gay men with derogatory terms in an assembly committee on May 16, 2014. He also said that being gay was a ‘lifestyle choice.’ In 2010, Tokyo Governor Shintaro Ishihara commented that ‘Japan has become far too untamed’ as seen by the fact that ‘homosexuals are casually appearing even on television lately.’
Popular culture indicates increasing openness towards non-conforming sexual orientations and gender identities. The gay music artists Piko and Osugi openly talk about their sexuality on national television. Increasing acceptance of transgender individuals is evinced by the popularity of transgender singer and songwriter Ataru Nakamura. Her music sales even increased after she discussed her male-to-female reassignment surgery on the variety show All Night Nippon in 2006. In popular media, there is a demand for lesbian and gay comics. Barais the genre of art that portrays male same-sex love while Yuri describes lesbian-romance anime.
NON-GOVERNMENTAL ORGANISATIONS (NGOs)
We do not currently list any NGOs for Japan, but we welcome suggestions.
COUNTRY OF ORIGIN SPECIALISTS
We do not currently list any COI experts for Japan, but we welcome suggestions.