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Japan's LGBTQ+ Activists Used Olympics to Push for Antidiscrimination

Japan's LGBTQ+ Activists Olympics Push for Anti-Discrimination

Activists had hoped to use the spotlight to protect LGBTQ+ people from discrimination in Japan.


Japanese activists have spent six years demanding that Parliament -- called the National Diet in Japan -- pass legislation that would protect the rights of the country's LGBTQ+ population. However, the parliamentary session ended with hard-line conservatives still blocking the bill.

"We thought this Olympics would be the best opportunity to push the Japanese government to introduce such a law," says Kanae Doi, Japan director for Human Rights Watch. "The Olympic Charter explicitly says that discrimination at any time is not acceptable."

Most Japanese citizens agree that LGBTQ+ people should have better legal protections. Doi cites a study that found close to 90 percent of Japan's population supports such legislation.

LGBTQ+ people in Japan continue to face social and workforce discrimination. A study from the Japanese Ministry of Health, Labor, and Welfare, cited by Human Rights Watch, found that 36 percent of lesbian, gay, and bisexual people and 55 percent of transgender people say they have faced discrimination at work.

The country still does not have marriage equality, and LGBTQ+ students often experience bullying in schools. Trans Japanese citizens must go through gender-affirmation surgery and sterilization in order to change the gender on their legal documents.

"[LGBTQ+ activists have] been seeing this Olympics as the golden opportunity to finally have this law, but they lost," Doi says. A fall election, though, offers the hope that there could be a change in government.

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