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Pressure mounts for Japan to introduce the most basic of LGBT+ rights ahead of Olympics

Maggie Baska January 28, 2021
Picture of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic rings

The Tokyo 2020 Olympics Games logo is seen in Tokyo on January 28, 2021. (Photo by CHARLY TRIBALLEAU/AFP via Getty Images)

Japan should introduce a law to protect LGBT+ people from discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity ahead of the 2020 Olympic games this summer, human rights organisations have said.

In a letter, 116 human rights and LGBT+ organisations asked prime minister Yoshihide Suga of Japan to introduce such legislation before this summer, when they Tokyo Olympics are set to take place.

Tokyo was set to host the 2020 Summer Olympics last year, but the International Olympic Committee and Japanese government postponed the games for a year due to the ongoing pandemic. They are now scheduled for 23 July to 8 August.

The Tokyo 2020 Games are advertised as bringing “positive reform to the world” by building on three core concepts: “striving for your personal best”, “accepting one another” and “passing on legacy for the future”.

The game’s tagline is even a call-out for inclusion and diversity: “Know differences, show differences.”

However, LGBT+ and humans rights activists have said Japan needs to enact a national anti-discrimination law to protect LGBT+ people and athletes which meets international standards.

#EqualityActJapan Campaign to bring anti-discrimination laws to Japan.

The #EqualityActJapan campaign launched in 2020 to support a law to prohibit discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity. It has been backed by many groups including Human Rights Watch, Athlete Ally and the Japan Alliance for LGBT Legislation (J-ALL).

J-ALL is an umbrella organisation of 80 LGBT+ groups in Japan, and has promoted the campaign by working with Japanese and international athletes to end discrimination in sport.

Yuri Igarashi, director of J-ALL, said the Olympic Games give Japan a “wonderful opportunity” to introduce and pass protections so that everyone in society can “live openly and safely”.

Igarashi said: “LGBT people in Japan, including athletes, are entitled to equal protection under the law, but currently we have only one known openly out active athlete and many remain in the closet from fear and stigma.”

Japan is one of the more progressive nations in Asia when it comes to LGBT+ rights, with homosexuality being legal since 1880. Transgender people have been recognised by the Japanese government since 2004, but a controversial part of Japanese law requires individuals can only be identified as their preferred gender after undergoing gender-affirming surgery.

There are currently no laws preventing discrimination of LGBT+ people in the workplace or housing. Same-sex marriage is still not legally recognised, though some cities recognise civil unions. Additionally, there are no laws regulating or addressing same-sex couples adopting in Japan.

More: 2020 Olympics, Asia, Japan, LGBT athletes, sport

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