Japan’s second largest political party, the Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ), announced that Kanako Otsuji, the first openly lesbian politician in Japan, will be one of the party’s official candidates for this summer’s National Diet (parliament) election.

Ms Otsuji, 32, was elected as an Osaka Assembly Member in April 2003.

In August 2005, she came out of the closet in her book Coming Out and marched in the Tokyo Pride Parade (formerly known as Tokyo Lesbian Gay Parade) along with about 2,500 people.

In her book, Ms Otsuji said:

“I believe coming out (as a lesbian) is the best thing that I can do for society to encourage people.

“I want to establish a society where everybody can be who they really are.”

In May 2006 she worked with the organisers of Tokyo Pride, the Rainbow March In Sapporo and GayJapanNews for Act Against Homophobia.

The following month, she visited Washington D.C. and San Francisco through the International Visitor Leadership Programme operated by the US State Department.

Ms Otsuji has a good record of fighting for gay rights in Japan.

The major political parties in the country, including the DPJ, are reluctant to directly support gay rights, preferring instead to concentrate on wider discrimination issues.

Homosexual male sexual conduct is not illegal, but some regions (prefectures) have an unequal age of consent. The age for heterosexual consent is 13.

In October 2005, Osaka Prefecture started the House Sharing System which allows gay couples and other forms of couples that are not legally recognised as family to live in residences managed and operated by Osaka Housing Supply Corporation.

In 2005 and early 2007, Ms Otsuji submitted two statements about people with Gender Identity Disorder in cooperation with the New Komeito Party and other groups.

These statements were adopted by the Osaka Assembly.

Ms Otsuji didn’t run in April’s local election because she had already decided to run for the upcoming national election.

In the local election, one gay and three transgender candidates campaigned, but only one transgender candidate, Aya Kamikawa, was re-elected to her second term.

Ms Otsuji says she thinks that she has to bring LGBT people’s voices to the National Diet and has made it her goal to seek a seat for that end.

DPJ leaders said they decided to endorse Ms Otsuji as an official party candidate to “bring society’s attention to the discriminated people.”

If she wins, she’ll be the first openly LGBT national politician ever in Japan.

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