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Editorial: Japan PM needs to get serious about ending anti-LGBTQ discrimination

Eliminating discrimination against members of the LGBTQ community and other sexual minorities in Japan cannot be left aside for even a moment. And we must ask: Is Prime Minister Fumio Kishida putting the internal matters of his Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) ahead of taking even the first step to address this issue?

    It has been nearly two months since Kishida instructed his party to consider submitting a "bill to promote understanding of LGBT people" to the Diet in response to discriminatory remarks by his secretary about sexual minorities and same-sex marriage. However, there is no sign the bill will arrive on the Diet floor. It has been observed that the prime minister is concerned about the LDP conservative camp's misgivings about the bill and wants to avoid intra-party conflict as Japan heads into nationwide local elections in April.

    Yet even as political movement on the issue stalls, hate against transgender people is spreading on social media, becoming a serious problem. One false discourse making the rounds connected to transgender women is that, if an LGBT rights law is passed, men will be able to enter women's baths simply by saying they are female at heart.

    Whether a person can enter a public bathhouse is decided by the facility administrator on a case-by-case basis, depending on the circumstances. And in practice, members of the trans community have been discussing what works best with bathhouse managers, including setting times of the day when they can use the baths.

    Simply stating that one is a woman at heart does not mean that one can disregard bathhouse rules and go into a women's bath, and saying that an LGBT law will change this is a fallacy.

    Parents of children belonging to sexual minorities have pointed out that kids are being victimized by severe discrimination, to the point that some take their own lives. One group has submitted a written request to a prime ministerial aide calling for a law that prohibits discrimination outright, rather than a bill that calls only for understanding of LGBTQ people on principle. Discrimination is a human rights issue, and it is life-threatening.

    Some in the ruling LDP and the business community have criticized the delay in acting. Masakazu Tokura, chairman of the powerful Japan Business Federation (Keidanren) lobby, said he was "ashamed" of the situation in Japan amid the worldwide trend toward recognizing same-sex marriage and banning anti-LGBTQ discrimination.

    If Prime Minister Kishida thinks it is fine to just submit the anti-discrimination bill to the Diet before the upcoming Group of Seven summit in Hiroshima, which he will chair, his sense of human rights could be called into question.

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