Japan has failed to keep its promise to protect LGBT citizens

Japan failed to pass a law protecting its LGBT citizens in their last chance before the 2020 Summer Olympics.

In 2019, the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) in Japan campaigned hard for the queer vote, promising civil rights protections and bills promoting “correct understanding” of LGBT issues. Two years after their victory and with the 2020 Summer Olympics just over a month away, the party has done nothing on the matter. Or perhaps worse than nothing. On Wednesday June 16, the current parliament session will end. With it dies a bill that would have banned discrimination on the basis of sexuality or gender identity. The bill was dropped by the LDP and never brought to the floor to be heard by the parliament at all.

In terms of LGBT civil rights, Japan has failed to keep up with most of the other members of the Group of Seven, the political forum made of the financial powerhouses of the world. The Group includes Canada, France, Germany, Italy, the United Kingdom, the United States, and Japan. Of these, Japan and Italy are the only two that have yet to legalize same-sex marriage, and the only two without national protection against employer discrimination.

“The Olympic Charter clearly bans discrimination,” said Gon Matsunaka, head of Pride House Tokyo, an LGBTQ awareness group in Japan. “This is a breach of the contract with the International Olympic Committee.” Indeed, the theme for this year’s Olympic ceremonies is going to be “Unity in Diversity.” That will make this negligence especially bitter to LGBT participants in the games. Many LGBT voices believe the International Olympics Committee should refuse to host the Games in any country which does not protect LGBT rights.

On a practical level, failing to protect LGBT workers may also be a tangible economic blow to Japan. As the country’s population ages (Japan has one of the oldest average populations in the world, with long lives and very low birth rates), much depends on attracting skilled foreign workers–who may not wish to live in a country that does not protect all its citizens.

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