Japan PM's party evasive over enacting law to protect LGBT rights
TOKYO (Kyodo) -- Senior lawmakers of Japan's ruling party led by Prime Minister Fumio Kishida on Tuesday remained non-committal about enacting a law for protecting the rights of sexual minorities, despite growing calls for such a move following discriminatory remarks by the premier's former close aide.
Hiroshi Kajiyama, executive acting secretary general of the Liberal Democratic Party, told a press conference whether submitting a bill to facilitate understanding of LGBT issues during the current parliamentary session through June 21 will "depend on discussions going forward," adding the party's committee discussing the topic will consider the bill and prepare for submission.
Issues surrounding sexual minorities in Japan have come under the spotlight after Kishida on Saturday sacked Masayoshi Arai, one of his executive secretaries, after Arai told reporters the previous day that he would "not want to live next door" to an LGBT couple and that he does "not even want to look at them."
The Komeito party, the junior partner of the ruling party, and some opposition forces expressed readiness to enact the law to promote understanding of sexual minorities.
The left-leaning opposition Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan called for a more radical shift to enact a law allowing same-sex marriage in Japan.
The country remains the only Group of Seven nation that does not legally recognize same-sex marriage or civil unions, as many members of Kishida's conservative LDP have opposed the concept, emphasizing the country's traditional values, such as the role of women in giving birth and raising children.
Kishida, for his part, has remained cautious about recognizing same-sex marriage in the country, telling a parliamentary session last week, "It is a matter that could change people's views on family, sense of values and society."
The bill for promoting the understanding of sexual minorities was once aborted after the ruling and opposition blocs agreed on the plan in May 2021, as the LDP's leadership eventually opposed it over the phrase "discrimination is unacceptable," with conservative members claiming the scope of discrimination is unclear.
Shoji Nishida, an LDP upper house member, said he will not agree to the bill if it includes the same phrase again.
The sensitive issue has proved a headache for Kishida, who is scheduled to host a G-7 summit in May in his home constituency in Hiroshima.
Asked about the topic in a press conference, Foreign Minister Yoshimasa Hayashi, an LDP lawmaker, said the government will make efforts to realize a society in which diversity, human rights and the dignity of all people are respected.
"As the chair of the G-7, Japan will continue to explain thoroughly such a policy at home and abroad," he said.
Jun Azumi, Diet affairs chief of the CDPJ, stressed the need for enacting legislation to acknowledge same-sex marriage during the current Diet session, saying doing so "serves the national interest."
On Tuesday, groups supporting sexual minorities also urged the government to swiftly ready a legislation that prohibits discrimination against LGBT people or protect their human rights before Japan hosts the summit in the western Japan city.
Speaking in a news conference, Yuichi Kamiya, secretary general of the Japan Alliance for LGBT Legislation, said the remarks by Kishida's close aide were "extremely serious."
"They should raise questions on how these comments came about in the host country of the G-7" gathering this year, Kamiya said.