Legislation to improve people's understanding of sexual minorities including LGBT people have been met with resistance by conservative parts of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP). With the end of the current Diet session approaching and setbacks in internal party discussion, the bill is at risk.
The point of contention is a passage inserted as a result of cross-party cooperation, reading, "Discrimination on the basis of a person's sexual orientation or gender identity is unacceptable."
Of course, discrimination against sexual minorities is unacceptable. But Japan has no law forbidding it. First and foremost, the proposed bill should be passed during the current Diet session.
A not insignificant number of sexual minorities have suffered from being outed by people close to them. There are many cases of people whose physical sex and gender identity do not match being put at a disadvantage when looking for work and at their jobs.
The bill would legally compel the government to formulate a basic policy plan for promoting understanding, and its text says that the national government and municipal authorities must work to uphold the measures. It also asks for efforts to be made in improving the day-to-day environment at businesses, schools and elsewhere.
Opposition parties requested that provisions banning discrimination also be included. But they settled with the inclusion of such a passage in the bill's objective and basic concept, which was ultimately agreed with the ruling coalition.
However, conservatives in the LDP have voiced opposition on the grounds that without a clear description of what words and action constitute discrimination, there will be an increase in victims taking legal action based on the anti-discrimination passage. But deciding whether an action or remark is discriminatory, and whether to place responsibility for it on a perpetrator, is the role of the courts.
What cannot be overlooked is the stream of discriminatory remarks coming from inside the ruling party.
At a closed meeting, LDP House of Representatives lawmaker Kazuo Yana reportedly made statements to the effect that sexual minorities are, from a biological perspective, shunning the preservation of the species.
House of Councillors lawmaker Eriko Yamatani, also, has said, "Ridiculous things have been happening, like people with male bodies thinking they are female trying to get into women's bathrooms, and in America they're winning medals taking part in women's track and field competitions."
These are but the latest in a long and repetitious stream of discriminatory remarks by LDP lawmakers. If this situation is left unattended, it could lead to suspicion of the party members' understanding of human rights.
The establishment of a law to improve understanding of sexual minorities has been an LDP pledge for five years. The party has finally started doing something about it just ahead of the start of the Olympics, which upholds values of diversity and harmony.
The multi-partisan bill is only the first step in creating a society that respects diversity. To eradicate discrimination against sexual minorities, further initiatives will be essential.