By Joe Jones
In a landmark decision, the Tokyo Metropolitan Government passed a bill on October 5th which prohibits discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity. In addition, the act also establishes a public education campaign to raise awareness for LGBT rights issues. The new Tokyo law states “the Tokyo Metropolitan Government, citizens, and enterprises may not unduly discriminate on the basis of gender identity or sexual orientation” and that the government will “conduct measures needed to make sure human rights values are rooted in all corners of the city and diversity is respected in the city.”
The ordinance was passed in preparation for Tokyo’s hosting of the 2020 Olympic games and in respect to provisions in the current Olympic Charter. The charter states, “The enjoyment of the rights and freedoms set forth in the Olympic Charter shall be secured without discrimination of any kind, such as race, color, sex, sexual orientation, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status.” In 2014, the International Olympic Committee added non-discrimination clauses for host countries in response to the global controversary sparked by Russia’s anti-gay propaganda law was passed ahead of the 2013 winter games held in Sochi.
According to The Japan Times, there are a couple of specific ways in which Tokyo will curtail hate speech and ensure equal treatment of LGBT people and their partners. One, the government will monitor public spaces to guarantee they are not used to promote hateful ideology. Two, same-sex couples will have equal access in terms of hospital visits and housing. Third, the ordiance also “stipulates the disclosure of names of groups and individuals promoting hate speech if the governor deems their activities a violation of human rights. Under the ordinance, such groups can be required to remove hateful content from their websites.”
The paper also states that “The ordinance includes awareness-raising measures to improve understanding of the LGBT community, and the metropolitan government also plans to set up centralized consultation centers for LGBT people to offer various forms of support for sexual minority groups.”
The anti-discrimination bill is representative of Japan in recent years taking steps to provide rights and protection of freedoms for the LGBT community. Human Rights Watch notes that in 2016 the Education Ministry released a “Guidebook for Teachers” which advised teachers how to be respectful to LGBT students in schools. Then in 2017 the ministry revised their anti-bullying policy to include language specific to LGBT students.
While these progressive policies are a step in the right direction, there is still plenty of reforms Japan needs to pass in order to grant full equality for the LGBTQ community. Japan still lacks national legislation which protects LGBTQ people from discrimination, nor is same-sex marriage legally recognized in Japan. According to Human Rights Watch, their treatment of transgender people is oppressive more than respectful. “It also labels transgender people who request legal recognition as having a ‘Gender Identity Disorder’ and leaves them with no alternative but to undergo unnecessary and invasive medical procedures to secure official documents that reflect their gender identity.”
Tokyo’s recent anti-discrimination ordinance could possibly indicate a shift in viewpoints which could lead to fairness and equality created and upheld for the LGBTQ community.