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Pressure Mounts on Japan to Enact LGBTQ+ Protections Before Olympics

A 2016 same-sex marriage rally in Tokyo pictured via Shutterstock

Activists and community members rallied in Tokyo as the world's eyes turn to Japan.


Japanese LGBTQ+ activists and supporters held a rainbow rally on Sunday, calling for the government to pass an anti-discrimination bill to protect LGBTQ+ people in the country before the upcoming Olympics.

Protesters, led by drag queens and DJs, danced in rainbow-themed masks at Tokyo's Shibuya Station, according to Agence France-Presse.

The law has been gaining support since 2015.

About 100 people joined the rally, holding signs with phrases like "Equality Now!" "Legalize!," and "Equality Act during the current Parliament!" -- both in Japanese and in English, the Associated Press reported.

The country doesn't recognize same-sex partnerships, and while support for LGBTQ+ rights has grown more mainstream in recent years, rights groups say LGBTQ+ people still face discrimination at school, work, and home.

"We are not giving up yet," openly gay writer and activist, Soshi Matsuoka, said at the rally. "If the legislation is scrapped, the lives and dignity of sexual minorities may continue to be ignored ... We want to have each of our voices heard."

Activist Gon Matsunaka, who leads an international program to connect LGBTQ+ people during the Olympics called Pride House Tokyo, said, according to the AP, that the current bill is weaker than it was previously. However, "enacting a law is a crucial first step to protect the rights and lives of the sexual minorities who still suffer discrimination."

Parliament's current session ends June 16, but conservatives in the government have prevented the bill from moving forward. Some parliament members have uttered homophobic and transphobic remarks during previous discussions of the bill.

A trans woman named Sally who attended the rally on Sunday said that she's had to take time away from work due to the harassment she faces there, according to the AP. She added that preventing the law from being approved is only increasing the discrimination LGBTQ+ people experience.

"We need [a] law that promotes understanding and bans discrimination at the same time," she said, according to the news agency.

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