Japanese Human Rights Council Recommends Lesbian and Gay Rights Summary

  • Last updated on November 11, 2022

The Japanese Ministry of Justice’s Council for Human Rights Promotion recommended the addition of “sexual orientation” to Japan’s human rights laws. The council’s decision marks the first time that lesbian and gay rights had been acknowledged by the Japanese government. The proposal, sent to the Japanese house of representatives in March, 2003, was rejected, however.

Summary of Event

Following the direction of the United Nations in 1998, Japan’s Ministry of Justice planned to renew Japan’s outdated human rights protections. The ministry created the Council for Human Rights Promotion (CHRP), under the Law of Promotion of Measures for Human Rights Protection, to determine the changes that needed to be made to the civil rights code. [kw]Japanese Human Rights Council Recommends Lesbian and Gay Rights (May 25, 2001) [kw]Human Rights Council Recommends Lesbian and Gay Rights, Japanese (May 25, 2001) [kw]Rights Council Recommends Lesbian and Gay Rights, Japanese Human (May 25, 2001) [kw]Lesbian and Gay Rights, Japanese Human Rights Council Recommends (May 25, 2001) [kw]Gay Rights, Japanese Human Rights Council Recommends Lesbian and (May 25, 2001) Council for Human Rights Promotion, Japan Human Rights Promotion, Council for, Japan Japan, GLBT rights movement in Antidiscrimination laws;Japan [c]Laws, acts, and legal history;May 25, 2001: Japanese Human Rights Council Recommends Lesbian and Gay Rights[2590] [c]Civil rights;May 25, 2001: Japanese Human Rights Council Recommends Lesbian and Gay Rights[2590] Nagata, Masashi Inaba, Masaki

The interim report of the council, released in November of 2000, indicated that the council needed to investigate further the issue of discrimination based on sexual orientation to determine if it indeed was a national human rights issue. The council then held five public hearings in five big cities. Three representatives from OCCUR (Japan Association for the Lesbian and Gay Movement) Japan Association for the Lesbian and Gay Movement were invited to the council hearings in Osaka, Fukuoka, and Sapporo.

OCCUR also sent out appeals to LGBT individuals and organizations around the world, asking them to urge the CHRP to include LGBT rights in its final proposal. OCCUR gained strong support from the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission (IGLHRC). Acting together, OCCUR and IGLHRC persuaded the Tokyo municipal government to add to its human rights guidelines a section prohibiting discrimination against LGBT people in the same month the interim report was released by the CHRP. Tokyo, then, became the first city in Asia to have sexual-orientation legislation.

The CHRP released its final report on May 25, 2001. It recommended creating an independent National Human Rights Commission (NHRC), and clearly specified that the commission would solve the problems of human rights violations and discrimination based on sexual orientation through positive actions. There already were many countries that publicly prohibited discrimination based on sexual orientation, but for Japan, this was the first public recognition of LGBT rights.

Including LGBT rights in the final report resulted from the actions and efforts of lesbians and gays. In the report, lesbians and gays are described as entitled to full human rights. The final report stated that there had been cases of discrimination in employment and also harassment and public defamation against homosexuals, and it proposed that discriminatory treatment based on sexual orientation would be targeted by positive actions of the NHRC to make society more fair.

Masaki Inaba, OCCUR’s program director for advocacy, said that he was glad the final report touched on discrimination based on sexual orientation. He emphasized that it was a historical moment for LGBT people in Japan because the human rights of sexual minorities would finally be recognized at the state level. Inaba said, “We are delighted to share good news from Japan: the Council for HRP, the Japanese Justice Ministry’s special council for founding a new national human rights commission, included LGBT rights as one of the categories of human rights which should be protected by the new commission. There are no antidiscrimination laws in Japan, but if the commission is legally established, it will be a good substitute for antidiscrimination laws as a measure to protect Japanese LGBT human rights.”

Significance

The proposal of the Council for Human Rights Promotion was drafted into a bill and sent to the Japanese house of representatives (Shugiin) in March of 2002. A backlash ensued, particularly over language in the bill that indicated the NHRC would have the power to reduce invasive media action toward minorities and children. There were many abusive expressions about homosexuals being used in Japan’s media at the time, especially on television. The final report stressed promoting positive, or good, images of LGBT people to the Japanese people, and major media companies argued that the report’s recommendations would violate their right to free speech.

OCCUR soon gained attention not only from the Japanese people but also foreign organizations pursuing LGBT rights. Since this was the first time in Japan that LGBT rights had been acknowledged, OCCUR’s strategy became a model on how to pursue civil rights throughout the world.

On October 10, 2003, the human rights protection bill had been thrown out along with all the other pending bills when the house of representatives was dissolved by Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi. It appears that unless the bill is amended to make the NHRC more independent from the ministry, and more protective of free speech for the media, it will stall. However, many LGBT rights organizations in Japan have become active because of CHRP’s proposal. Council for Human Rights Promotion, Japan Human Rights Promotion, Council for, Japan Japan, GLBT rights movement in Antidiscrimination laws;Japan

Further Reading
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Broadbent, Jeffrey. Environmental Politics in Japan: Networks of Power and Protest. New York: Cambridge University Press, 1998.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Brody, Betsy. Opening the Door: Immigration, Ethnicity, and Globalization in Japan. New York: Routledge, 2001.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Chan-Tiberghien, Jennifer. Gender and Human Rights Politics in Japan: Global Norms and Domestic Network. Stanford, Calif.: Stanford University Press, 2004.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">McLelland, Mark. Queer Japan from the Pacific War to the Internet Age. Lanham, Md.: Rowman & Littlefield, 2005.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Narita, Norihiko. About Japan Series: Political Changes in the 1990’s. Tokyo: Foreign Press Center, 1999.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Sattler, Cheryl L. Teaching to Transcend. Albany: State University of New York Press, 2000.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Summerhawk, Barbara, Cheiron McMahill, and Darren McDonald, eds. and trans. Queer Japan: Personal Stories of Japanese Lesbians, Gays, Transsexuals, and Bisexuals. Norwich, Vt.: New Victoria, 1998.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Wendt, Alexander. Social Theory of International Politics. New York: Cambridge University Press, 1999.

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July, 2003: Singapore Lifts Ban on Hiring Lesbian and Gay Employees

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