Lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) rights activists in Japan and their allies have for years been pressing the Diet, the national parliament, to introduce legislation that protects sexual orientation and gender identity as grounds for nondiscrimination. One proposed law – the Equality Act – is currently under intense negotiation among Japan’s political parties. In April, the ruling conservative Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) announced it would pass an LGBT law during the current Diet session, set to end in June.
But for weeks the LDP has been trying to water down the law, offering instead their own weaker bill that, instead of protecting against discrimination, promises to only “promote understanding of LGBT people.”
It is not only the bill’s language that has been fraught. The negotiations have exposed deep anti-LGBT sentiments within the ranks of the LDP.
At a meeting a few weeks ago, Koji Shigeuchi, adviser to the LDP’s committee to study sexual orientation and gender identity, expressed falsehoods and prejudices about transgender people. In a speech titled “The LGBT issue is getting out of control,” he told his audience of policymakers that protecting LGBT people from discrimination and recognizing gender identity would mean people could say they were “a man today, and a woman tomorrow.” He falsely said that trans women posed a threat to cisgender women and directly told a trans woman elected official in the audience: “There is no need for you to have your hormone therapy covered by insurance because you are healthy. You should live with the body you were born with.”
Now media reports this week indicate that LDP members oppose the bill, saying that “LGBT goes against the preservation of the human race.”
Japanese officials insulting LGBT people is not new, but it is increasingly out of touch with Japanese public opinion and the government’s place on the world stage. In two months, Japan hosts the Summer Olympics, which will likely feature the first openly transgender athlete to compete at the Games. The Olympic Charter prohibits discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation.
LDP legislators are out of line. Other LDP leaders should override their ugly rhetoric and pass the Equality Act immediately.