- September 24, 2013
Post submitted by Brian Moulton, Former HRC Legal Director
Two weeks ago, I traveled to Japan at the invitation of the U.S. Embassy in Tokyo to participate in a series of speaker programs on LGBT issues across the country. Over the course of a week, I had the tremendous opportunity to speak with LGBT activists, politicians, students and local media in Tokyo, Naha, Fukuoka, Osaka and Nagoya about the progress we’ve made in the United States (including our historic Supreme Court decisions this summer), the challenges still ahead of us and the ways in which HRC’s efforts might help inform advocacy for equality in Japan. The amazing staff of the U.S. Embassy and Consulates created a great program, building on the State Department’s worldwide commitment to promoting LGBT equality as part of our nation’s international human rights agenda.
There is still significant progress to be made on LGBT issues in Japan. While there are some legal rights for transgender people, there are no laws prohibiting discrimination against LGBT people anywhere in the country, nor is there any legal recognition for same-sex relationships. While anti-LGBT violence is rare, quieter prejudice remains pervasive, keeping many LGBT Japanese from being open about who they are. However, there are a number of LGBT activists and organizations, like Partnership Law Japan and Pink Dot Okinawa, working to increase the visibility of LGBT people and the issues the face across the country. There is also increasing discussion of LGBT issues in mainstream news media, and many events over the course of my week in Japan were featured in the press, such as this article in Nagoya’s largest newspaper, Chunichi Shimbun (in Japanese). And there are many elected officials, human rights activists and students looking for ways that they can advance LGBT equality in their communities.
Throughout my time in Japan, I was inspired by the passion and excitement of so many people around LGBT issues. It was a great privilege to discuss our successes and challenges in the United States and how our work might help inspire new advances for the rights of our community in Japan.