Japanese LGBTQ Activists Call For Country To Adopt Equal Rights Laws After Recent Aide’s Discriminatory Remark

Japanese people and LGBTQ rights groups have condemned a recent discriminatory remark by a senior aide to Prime Minister Fumio Kishida, calling on his government to enact laws to ban discrimination against sexual minorities, legalize same-sex marriage and ensure equal rights before Japan hosts a G7 summit in May.

Their comments at a press conference on Tuesday followed remarks last week by Kishida’s assistant Masayoshi Arai, who was fired after telling reporters he would not want to live next to LGBTQ people and that citizens would flee Japan if same-sex marriage was permitted.

Despite Kishida’s quick dismissal of Arai, a comment made by the prime minister early last week has raised questions about his intentions towards sexual minorities.


Responding to a question from an opposition lawmaker in parliament, Kishida said whether to allow same-sex marriage is “an issue that needs to be looked into very carefully”. A decision requires a thorough examination of the whole of society “because the issue can change the concept of family and values ​​as well as society,” she said.

At Tuesday’s press conference, LGBTQ activists and their supporters said that while Arai’s remarks showed open prejudice against sexual minorities, Kishida’s dubious comments suggested his reluctance to address the issue despite his earlier commitment to create a inclusive and diverse society.

Yuichi Kamiya, executive director of the Japan Alliance for LGBT Legislation, speaks during a news conference on February 7, 2023 in Tokyo.

Yuichi Kamiya, executive director of the Japan Alliance for LGBT Legislation, speaks during a news conference on February 7, 2023 in Tokyo. (AP Photo/Eugene Hoshiko)

“The prime minister’s aide’s discriminatory comments have made it clear to the rest of the world that Japan is a country that doesn’t care about the rights of sexual minorities,” said Takako Uesugi, a lawyer and director of Marriage For All Japan, an organization campaign for the legalization of same-sex marriage.

Noting that Japan is the only member of the Group of Seven advanced industrialized countries that lacks a law protecting the rights of sexual minorities, he said, “We have to say that Japan is not fit to lead the G-7 summit if let’s leave the situation unresolved.”

They called on the government to immediately start the process of legalizing same-sex marriage, set up a working group to study ways to secure the rights of sexual minorities, appoint an assistant prime minister specializing in sexual minority rights, and include the statistics of same-sex couples in the national census.


Support for sexual diversity has grown slowly in Japan, and legal protections for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people are still lacking. They often face discrimination at school, work and at home, forcing many to hide their sexual identity.

In recent years, more than 200 local municipalities, including Tokyo, have introduced marriage certificates for same-sex couples that allow them to rent apartments and sign documents in case of medical emergencies and for inheritances. However, the certificates are not legally binding and same-sex couples are often prevented from visiting each other in hospital and from accessing other services available to married couples.

Campaigns for equal rights for sexual minorities have met with resistance from conservatives in Prime Minister Fumio Kishida’s ruling Liberal Democratic Party. An attempt to enact a law on promoting equality awareness ahead of the 2021 Tokyo Olympics was reversed by the party.


Amid national outrage at Arai’s remarks, the party’s general secretary, Toshimitsu Motegi, said he plans to start preparing legislation to promote awareness of LGBTQ rights, but some conservatives have already shown resistance. A group of impartial lawmakers also said they hoped to enact equality legislation by the G-7 summit.

The activists noted that Japan signed the communiqué from the G-7 Elmau summit in June calling for “full, equal and meaningful participation of women and girls in all their diversity, as well as LGBTIQ+ people in politics, economy, in education and in all other spheres of society.”

“Kishida’s lack of efforts to establish legal protections is tantamount to promoting discrimination,” said Soshi Matsuoka, an activist who started an online petition for laws promoting anti-discrimination and equality rights that has received more than 40,000 signatures from sunday.


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