by Ewa Nowogorski
The LGBT scene has become much more open and accepted worldwide, and in Japan their rights are relatively progressive by Asian standards. And at first glance, the situation for LGBT people in Japan may seem satisfactory. Japan does not criminalize same-sex sexual acts between consenting adults, and known violent attacks against individuals as well as those who work to protect LGBT rights are rare. One of the largest Pride Parades in Asia is hosted in the capital city, Tokyo. Transgender people can change their gender in the Family Registry if certain conditions are met. Although same-sex marriage is not recognized at the national level, five local municipalities recognize same-sex partnerships as “equivalent to marriage”. Practices are changing due to persistent efforts by activists and rights holders, for instance Taga city in Sendai Prefecture made gender classification optional on library cards following advocacy by residents. An increasing number of companies have expanded their employee benefits – extending benefits to same-sex relationships that are provided for married couples. In the international arena, in 2011 and 2014, Japan voted in favour of the UN
Human Rights Council resolutions on Human Rights, Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity and Japan also
accepted a number of UPR recommendations in 2008 and 2012 to enhance LGBT rights.
However, the reality is that LGBT people face pervasive discrimination in their daily lives and the established
cultural and community frameworks in which they live lead many to simply hide their identity and dissuades
them from claiming their rights. According to a survey by the Dentsu Diversity LAB, which undertakes
various activities to promote diversity within Japanese advertising agency the Dentsu Group, one in 13 Japanese people identify themselves as LGBT – about 7.6% of the population – but rarely is this diversity recognized. For instance, individuals are reluctant to disclose their sexual orientation or gender identity in the workplace, to their relatives, or in their social life, often leading to a sense of social and emotional displacement.