Rally pushes Japan gov't for measures beyond 'LGBT understanding' bill
TOKYO -- Supporters of sexual minorities staged a rally in Japan's capital on Feb. 14, calling for laws against discrimination based on sexual orientation in the wake of discriminatory remarks against the LGBTQ community by a former secretary to Prime Minister Fumio Kishida.
Some members of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) are in favor of passing an "LGBT understanding promotion bill" during the current Diet session. But people attending the rally in front of the Members' Office Building of the House of Councillors called for stronger measures, saying, "We don't want a 'promotion of understanding' law, we want an anti-discrimination law."
The multi-partisan bill has been on hold since 2021 due to resistance from conservative members of the LDP who have taken issue with parts such as the phrase, "Discrimination is unforgivable," while the bill was symbolic and did not carry any concrete provisions to ban discrimination. The bill recently gained renewed attention after Prime Minister Kishida, responding to growing criticism of his former secretary's remarks, issued instructions on Feb. 6 to prepare for its legislation.
At the rally, Soshi Matsuoka, who launched a Change.org petition pushing for Japan to pass an anti-discrimination law and legalize same-sex marriage, read messages from LGBTQ individuals and their families. "LGBTQ people are being discriminated against and are facing severe challenges. I wish (the government) would not dodge the issue by playing around with the 'promoting understanding' bill," Matsuoka said.
Another participant, Miho Okada, spoke about the time her late partner was battling cancer. She was plagued by anxiety since the hospital might not have contacted her in an emergency because the two women were not legally married. Regarding the ex-secretary's discriminatory comments, she said, "Why must I, as a lesbian, be insulted for being with someone I love? How long should we wait for laws to be prepared? In my case, (the changes) are already too late, but I want as many others as possible to see their hopes fulfilled."
People who represent a range of minorities spoke at the rally. Monky Takano, who is deaf and transgender, said using sign language, "For the deaf, there are thick barriers to getting information about LGBTQ issues, and too few places to seek help. Some take their own lives due to their worries. I've happily been with my partner for a long time, but I want us to be recognized as family."
One participant who serves as an office staffer for gatherings of ethnic Korean LGBTQ people in Japan said, "I'm faced with hate speech from all directions. My very existence is denied. There is a pressing need to pass laws respecting the rights of all sorts of people."
A joint statement by rally attendees pointed out, "Surely the right order to do things is for the country to first declare that it is 'breaking away from discrimination' and then tackle the issue." It further stated, "Legislation banning unfair treatment on the premise of fair treatment for all people is exactly what is appropriate."
(Japanese original by Miyuki Fujisawa, Digital News Center)
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