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Mar 28, 2023
Japan LGBTQ Bill Faces Ruling Party Roadblocks, Lawmaker Says
(Bloomberg) -- Forces within Japan’s conservative ruling party are blocking a bill to promote understanding of LGBTQ issues despite pressure to show progress ahead of the country hosting the G-7 summit in May, a lawmaker from the party said.
“The bill has been shelved and there hasn’t been a single debate about it,” said Tomomi Inada, a former defense minister and a prominent LDP lawmaker. She has long campaigned to enact the legislation that she sees as a small step to protect minorities. But for some members of the party, even that seems too much.
Japan is the only member of the Group of Seven nations not to allow same-sex marriage or civil unions, and the only one without legislation banning discrimination against the LGBTQ community. Opposition lawmakers have been calling on Prime Minister Fumio Kishida’s government to enact the bill backed by Inada prior to the G-7 summit as a show of unity with other democracies.
“If we do nothing as this year’s G-7 host, the world will wonder whether Japan is a country that properly defends human rights,” Inada said in an interview with Bloomberg News last week.
Calls for legal recognition of sexual and gender diversity returned to the fore after an aide to Kishida made discriminatory remarks about the LGBTQ community in an off-the-record briefing in February. The aide was fired amid public outrage, and party No. 2 Toshimitsu Motegi called for progress on the bill, which had been stalled since 2021.
Kishida held a rare meeting with LGBTQ groups last month and tasked one of his advisers with advancing understanding of issues that affect the community. “We must respect diversity and make efforts to aim for a society where people can enjoy various ways of life,” the premier said.
But no headway has been made on the bill, which would pave the way for a budget for research and education, according to Inada. Its wording is a compromise hammered out to gain the necessary permission of the opposition, who had sought an outright ban on discrimination.
One of the more outspoken members of the LDP, Shoji Nishida, a lawmaker in the upper house of parliament, has said he won’t accept an LGBTQ rights bill that includes the language “discrimination is unacceptable,” Kyodo News reported. The use of the term “sexual identity” has also prompted objections, Inada said.
Few LDP lawmakers are prepared to back the law in public, though some privately offer encouragement, Inada said. The public appears to be ready for change more than the ruling party. Nearly two-thirds of Japanese support same-sex marriage, according to a Kyodo poll taken in February.
Inada’s efforts to pass the bill two years ago prompted a campaign to unseat her in the 2021 general election, she said. She keeps a box in her office full of magazines, pamphlets and letters criticizing her for her support of the LGBTQ community.
“Everyone saw that. The situation you face if you support it,” she said. “The bashing and obstruction I was subjected to were a deterrent.”
Business groups have said the lack of a same-sex marriage provision affects their ability to recruit global talent and political leaders from other G-7 members have pressured Japan over the issue. US Ambassador to Japan Rahm Emanuel tweeted about hosting lawmakers in February for discussions with visiting congressman Mark Takano, a longtime LGBTQ campaigner.
“This is a chance to press forward with something that hasn’t moved a millimeter in two years,” Inada said. “To go into G-7 without doing anything wouldn’t be good for Japan.”
©2023 Bloomberg L.P.
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