FARRAH PADILLA WRITES – This spring in Japan, the pink and red cherry blossoms will flood streets, neighborhoods, lawns, and the sky. These colors never fail to amaze locals and tourists alike; but what about orange, yellow, green, blue, and purple? These colors are less common, but less so this year, as rainbow flags representing gay rights will be a welcome addition peeking through the pink and red cherry blossoms.

As of recently, LGBTQ+ rights activists in the country have moved the push for anti-discrimination laws front and center. Not surprisingly, this comes after Masayohi Arai was relieved of his executive secretary duties following anti-LGBTQ remarks made earlier this year. Arai was quoted saying that he did “not want to live next door” to members of the LGBTQ community and that he does “not even want to look at them”.

This instance reignited a fire under Japan’s ruling party, the Liberal Democratic Party, which was under pressure less than two years ago before the 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo to enact an LGBTQ equality law. The call for the recognition of same sex marriage and protection of LGBTQ individuals has been prevalent within the past few years, but it took these wildly discriminatory remarks to bring the issue center stage yet again.

Japan remains the only country that does not legally recognize same sex marriage among the G-7. This has been seen as a violation of human rights, considering that partnership certificates do not grant same-sex couples the same rights that heterosexual couples enjoy, such as parental rights to each other’s children and inheritance of each other’s assets. This is in part because, with moderate Prime Minister Fumio Kushida and Japanese conservatives at the helm, the country’s traditional view of the prime importance of the heteronormative, nuclear family has largely prevailed. Now, though, more individuals in Japan recognize and outwardly support LGBTQ rights. This, as well as the backlash from Mr. Arai’s comments, has led to the Liberal Democratic Party’s consideration of a bill to promote the understanding of sexual minorities and to create an inclusive society that respects diversity while seeking to repair the damage done to the LGBTQ community from past discrimination.

In addition, on February 14th of this year people attended a rally in front of the Members’ Office Building of the House of Councilors, demanding that an anti-discrimination law be put in place. Considering that  64.3% of polled respondents in Japan feel the need to enact new laws, the Party may well follow suit, but the push forward is of a sluggish nature as the conservative wing of the LDP continues to defend its attachment to traditional family values.

Whether the LDP fully commits to a bill for the betterment of Japanese society or merely for the preservation of the party, or instead sticks to traditionally conservative values, there is no doubt that the matter of LGBTQ rights is gaining precedence in both policies and society at large.

This spring, we will have a better idea as to whether the Japanese landscape and skies will be filled with more colors than cherry blossom pink… with a rainbow in the sky, too.


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