New law in Japan Prohibits LGBT Discrimination

More progressive news in the human rights sphere to report on today. Todays post will celebrate the actions of Japan as they make progress towards combatting LGBT discrimination.

On the 5th October 2018, Tokyo Metropolitan Government passed an act which bans the discrimination of others that is fuelled by sexual orientation or gender identity. The new law prohibits the use of public spaces to make hate speech in any capacity, thus perturbing haters who will now face charges if they breach the law. Additionally, the new act requires the public education of LGBT rights to be carried out through schools and the wider society. This is a welcomed step in the strive for equality, a universal right, in todays ever evolving society.

japan pride

The law comes as a result of Tokyo hosting the 2020 olympics in the strive to foster peaceful games that are “inclusive and rights-respecting”. This is also largely due to the backlash after the ‘gay propaganda’ which sparked international criticism at the Russian Winter Olympics in 2014. Consequently, the International Olympic Committee committed to ensuring that all future Olympic contracts involved a requirement to ban discrimination, including that of LGBT. Whatever the motive, we praise Japan for beginning to address LGBT issues and can be grateful to the Olympic committee for disabling all future host countries from utilising the Olympics to cover up a poor human rights record.

However, the motive being the 2020 Olympics means that the new law is particular to Tokyo. Other provinces around Japan are known to have certain legislations regarding LGBT rights and education, however to date Japan has no national legislation regarding the issue.

“[E]ven though homosexuality is not criminalized in Japan, the country is yet to have a national-level legislation to stop discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation.” – Peoples Dispatch

Therefore, human rights organisations have pointed to the need for Japan to adopt national legislation that will protect LGBT individuals from unnecessary discrimination. It is undoubtedly beneficial that certain provinces have adopted their own legislation, but a stronger message and level of protection could be ascertained by nation wide laws.

Transgender rights

Despite the new act introduced by Tokyo which outlaws hate speech, transgender individuals seeking recognition are still largely helpless. Human Rights Watch reports that they are labelled as having a ‘gender identity disorder’ (GID), a term derogatory just in words alone. However, their only option if they seek to be recognised is to have a confirmed diagnosis of GID under Law 111 which then allows a legally recognised transition of identification to the opposite sex. However, the process in establishing GID is inherently discriminatory with certain thresholds needing to be met such as being 20 or over, being unmarried, and having no children under 20. The process also includes invasive tests. Whether GID is confirmed or not, the whole process and premise of Japans approach to transgender people has been labelled by human rights watch as violating international human rights, such as the right to health and the prohibition of inhuman and degrading treatment.


So, whilst Tokyo’s new law, which we hope will make positive waves for the rest of Japan, makes progress towards protecting LGBT individuals, there is evidently still a lot more ground to be covered. The new law will prevent public hate speech and thus make life more bearable for those affected. The educational requirement of it will also help to shape future Japanese generations to be more accepting and understanding of LGBT rights. However, this seems to be addressing the external issues of LGBT discrimination. It seems what is needed in addition is for laws to address the aspects of life that can cause LGBT individuals to have a lesser life than heterosexuals. This would include the right to same-sex marriage or to be recognised as the gender you identify with, and be given the same opportunities in life accordingly.

The new act passed by Tokyo seems to address only issues that would affect the 2020 Olympic games. This is natural as it was prompted by the Olympic contract. Howwver, it is possible that Tokyo has done this for selfish reasons in order to facilitate the hosting of the Olympics which will have far-reaching benefits for Japan, and not because they truly believe in protecting LGBT rights. Nevertheless, a law is a law and once passed it must be enforced meaning that for now, LGBT rights are better protected.

Hopefully this newest progression is a gateway to increase recognition of LGBT rights. We will keep an eye on Japan to monitor further advancements.

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