Tokyo was slated to host the 2020 Summer Olympics, but the International Olympic Committee and the Japanese government postponed the games for a year due to the Covid-19 pandemic. To mark the International Day against Homophobia, Biphobia, and Transphobia (IDAHOBIT) on May 17, the 96 groups publicly urged the government to pass LGBT non-discrimination protections ahead of the Olympics in 2021.
“LGBT people in Japan are entitled to equal protection under the law,” said Yuri Igarashi, co-representative director of the Japan Alliance for LGBT Legislation (J-ALL), an umbrella organization of 100 LGBT organizations in Japan. “Postponing the Olympic Games to 2021 will give the government time to introduce and pass protections of benefit to everyone in Japan.”
The Olympic Charter expressly bans “discrimination of any kind” including on the grounds of sexual orientation as a “Fundamental Principle of Olympism.” Japan has also ratified core international human rights treaties that obligate the government to protect against discrimination, including the International Covenants on Civil and Political Rights and on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights.
“We have seen through history the power of the Olympics to mobilize athletes and fans to speak out for what they believe in, from Tommie Smith and John Carlos protesting racism in 1968 to the Principle 6 campaign in 2014,” said Hudson Taylor, founder and executive director of Athlete Ally. “Sport teaches us that we are stronger when we stand together, and now is the time for the global sport community to stand in solidarity with the LGBT community in Japan.”
Tokyo’s action was important, but several Tokyo Olympic competitions, including the marathon, golf, fencing, race walking, and surfing, will take place outside of Tokyo in Hokkaido, Saitama, Chiba, Shizuoka, Kanagawa, Miyagi, and Fukushima prefectures. LGBT fans, athletes, and visitors in these prefectures will not be protected under Tokyo’s anti-discrimination ordinance.
“Japan has an opportunity to be a global LGBT rights leader,” said Kanae Doi, Japan director at Human Rights Watch. “The Tokyo metropolitan government has shown solidarity with the LGBT community, and the national government should follow suit.”
On this memorial day, J-ALL, Human Rights Watch, and Athlete Ally strongly call for the elimination of discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity under any circumstances.