LGBTQ rights: Japan PM under fire for same-sex marriage remarks

Japan’s Prime Minister Fumio Kishida has been criticised for saying the country’s ban on same-sex marriage is not discriminatory.

Weeks ago, he apologised to the LGBTQ community over homophobic comments made by an aide who has since been sacked.

Mr Kishida’s party is under growing pressure to improve LGBTQ rights, as more Japanese support same-sex marriage.

Japan remains the only G7 country that doesn’t recognise such unions.

When asked by an opposition lawmaker if the country’s existing law constituted discrimination, the PM said on Tuesday: “I don’t think disallowing same-sex couples to marry is unjust discrimination by the state.”

The prime minister also reiterated his position on Wednesday that a ban on same-sex marriage is “not unconstitutional” but said his stand should not be seen as a form of discrimination.

Local LGBTQ groups have accused Mr Kishida of backpedalling on commitments made in recent weeks – saying his words contradicted his actions.

He held a meeting with LGBTQ activists last month after he sacked his Executive Secretary Masayoshi Arai, who said he didn’t “even want to look at” sexual minorities. He appointed a special aide for LGBTQ issues and also said his party would consider a new bill.

The activists also said it was inaccurate for Mr Kishida to state that same-sex marriage was “not unconstitutional” in Japan, when local courts have ruled otherwise in at least two precedent-setting decisions.

The public attitude towards same-sex marriage has changed, especially among younger voters, said the Marriage for Equality Japan (MFEJ) group. A recent poll shows two-thirds of voters support making same-sex marriage legal.

“I think this is one of the reason why the government is estranged from public opinion, as the most in the heart of the government are elderly men,” said MFEJ chairperson Makiko Terahara.

Some couples have challenged the ban before the courts, to varying results.

In November 2022, a Tokyo court upheld the ban on same-sex marriage but said the denial of legal protections to same-sex couples was discriminatory. Rights campaigners hailed the ruling as a win for raising the need to amend current laws.

The country is also under pressure from its G7 peers to recognise LGBTQ rights as the country prepares to host the bloc’s next meeting in May.

There has been improvement in LGBTQ rights in Asia, but Taiwan remains the only territory that recognises same-sex marriage in the region



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