Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga should immediately and publicly commit to passing an LGBTQ+ Equality Act, a coalition of rights groups says following the Japanese government’s failure to pass related legislation before the Tokyo Olympics.
The coalition, which consists of the Japanese Alliance for LGBT Legislation (J-ALL), Athlete Ally, All Out, and Human Rights Watch, released the statement today along with a half hour video featuring Japanese LGBTQ+ advocates emphasizing the need to pass legislation protecting the rights’ of the countries’ LGBTQ+ individuals. Previously, the ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) had claimed it would pass LGBTQ+ protections in the 2021 legislative season, which ended in June without any new legislative protections.
This failure is “a lost opportunity to advance the rights of everyone in Japan,” the statement said.
The Tokyo Games, which begin on July 23 — having been postponed a year due to the Covid pandemic — will feature at least 121 out athletes, more than any other Olympic Games. The list does not include any out athletes from Japan, the host country.
“LGBT people in Japan, including athletes, are entitled to equal protection under the law, but currently there are a very limited number of openly out professional athletes in the country, and many remain in the closet from fear and stigma,” said J-ALL director Yuri Igarashi. “We expected the Olympic Games to be a wonderful opportunity to introduce and pass legal protections so that everyone in society can live openly and safely. It is extremely disappointing that this law did not pass this time.”
Japan has passed some limited measures to protect LGBTQ+ individuals. The Tokyo-area government has issued an ordinance that offers anti-discrimination protections to the LGBTQ+ community, in keeping with the official Olympic charter. And earlier this year, a Sapporo district court ruled that the government’s ban on same-sex marriage is unconstitutional.
However, no federal protections are in place, and same-sex marriage has not been legalized.
In January of this year, 116 national and international organizations petitioned the Japanese government in a letter to introduce and pass the Equality Act before the start of the Games.