G7 chair Japan is the only G7 country that does not recognize same-sex unions, and ahead of the bloc’s summit in May, the government is facing pressure to increase legal protections for its LGBTQ population.
But the government party cannot even agree on a text that prohibits discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation.
The issue came to the fore this month after the Prime Minister Fumio Kishida fired still adviser who stated that “I don’t even want to see” same-sex married couples.
Kishida called the statement “outrageous” and “incompatible” with the inclusive society that the government wants.
But Japan lacks a law against discrimination against LGBTQ people And while polls show public support for marriage equality and other rights, ministers remain cautious.
“It’s a shame that Japan, as the G7 chair, is in this situation,” Akira Nishiyama of the LGBTQ rights group J-ALL told AFP.
Nishiyama considers it “shameful” that Japan lacks legal provisions for the community despite the fact that Kishida last year signed a commitment with the G7 to ensure equal opportunities and protections regardless of sexuality or gender identity.
Parliament discusses a bill that promotes the “understanding” of LGTBQ issues.
Initially discussed in 2015, the project generated interest before the Tokyo Games in 2021, but its approval was prevented by conservative members of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP).
Some describe this law of understanding as a “first step for society, but it is a kind of agreement. I don’t want to negotiate human rights… We need a law that protects them,” Gon Matsunaka, leader of Pride House Tokyo, told AFP.
– Association certificates –
The government wants to show progress before the G7 summit in May.
Last week, Jessica Stern, Washington’s envoy for LGBTQ rights, agreed with the leader of the Komeito party, the LDP’s partner in the governing coalition, that the law be approved before the summit.
“It is important that we end suffering and create a society in which diverse people can coexist and live in dignity,” Komeito leader Natsuo Yamaguchi said after the meeting.
Society seems to have advanced more than the government. A survey by the Kyodo News agency determined this week that 64% of those consulted believe that Japan should recognize same-sex marriages and 25% reject it.
Other polls have shown similar support, and dozens of large municipalities, including Tokyo, They offer partnership certificates that allow same-sex couples to be treated as a married couple on issues such as housing, health, and welfare.
Many large Japanese companies also offer the same family benefits to their LGBTQ and straight employees.
Activists have tried to pressure lawmakers in court, arguing that the gay marriage ban violates the constitution, but the verdicts have been mixed.
– Rising momentum –
Japan is no exception in Asia, where only Taiwan has marriage equality.
Kishida has said that same-sex marriage will “change society,” so lawmakers must be “extremely careful when considering the issue.”
Compared to other right-wing members of his party, Kishida’s views are “relatively moderate,” according to James Brady, vice president of the international consultancy Teneo.
The LDP’s diversity efforts are financially motivated and “constrained by traditional values of how Japanese society should look and what roles people should play,” he said.
He same-sex marriage has little chance of entering the agenda anytime soon, according to Hiroyuki Taniguchi, a professor of humanitarian law at Aoyama Gakuin University.
But the “momentum is growing and it is possible that something will change”, such as including same-sex couples in legal frameworks such as pensions,” he told AFP.
Still, Taniguchi warned that momentum could be lost if there is no progress before the G7 summit.
“If there are no changes within this period, it is possible that social disinterest will return,” he predicted.
“Japan needs to keep its promises,” he concluded.