As the Olympics spotlight shines on Japan, LGBT advocates call for change

As the Olympics spotlight shines on Japan, LGBT advocates call for change


Madu Suzuki recalled how she mustered the courage to come out to her father in Japan until she moved to Canada to marry her partner.

Now a staunch advocate of LGBT rights, Suzuki hopes that the Tokyo Olympics can help promote Japan’s inclusiveness and diversity by putting the human rights record of traditionally conservative countries in the international spotlight.

Japan is the only country in the G7 that does not legally recognize same-sex marriage. Because there is no equality law, many LGBT people there still hide their identities, fearing discrimination in school, work, and even at home.

Suzuki now runs a dance studio in Victoria, where she lives with her wife and two children, and she is responsible for tens of thousands of people around the world who signed a petition to support Same-sex marriage and LGBT equality legislation On the eve of the opening of the Friday Olympic Games in Japan.

Hashimoto Seiko (right), the chairman of the Tokyo 2020 Organizing Committee, collided with Gon Matsunaka, the head of the Pride House Tokyo Heritage Site, during his visit on April 27. The Japanese government promised to push for an equality law before the Tokyo Olympics, but the ruling Liberal Democratic Party shelved the legislation in June. (Eugene Star/Associated Press)

Activists believe that as a host country, Japan should work hard to protect LGBT people because Olympic Charter All forms of discrimination are prohibited.

Suzuki, 31, said that she finally decided to settle in Canada because under the Japanese law that only recognizes the union of men and women, the government will not issue a spouse visa to her Canadian wife to allow her to live in the country.

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She said that although her mother accepted that she was gay before heading to British Columbia in 2014, when she invited them to her wedding in Victoria two years later, her father and uncles were shocked to learn about her To marry a woman.

Suzuki and Meredith took their wedding photos in Victoria in 2016. Suzuki said that some of her family members were shocked when they learned that she had married a woman. (Chris Westendorp)

“[My uncles] Say to me’you are not normal, if you have no children, your life is meaningless’,” Suzuki said.

“I was hurt by that comment.”

She said that what was even more traumatic was that after experiencing a disaster, she received a lot of hate speech from the Japanese. Huffington Post Article About her family was published last month.

Watch | Madu Suzuki recalls the trauma of coming out to his family:

If I did not speak out for the LGBT community in Japan, people there would think that intolerance is no problem, Madu Suzuki said, she recalled the trauma of coming out to conservative families. 3:42

Even in the Japanese Diet, homophobic speech abounds.For example, the ruling Liberal Democratic Party MP May says LGBT runs counter to the protection of human species.

A month later, his party decided to block the passage of LGBT equality legislation, despite promising to introduce such a law before the Olympics.

Tyler Iwata and Steven Hashimoto were two Vancouver nurses who tied the knot in Canada in 2012 under the blessing of Iwata’s parents. They said that Japanese society’s intolerance and politicians’ sexual attitudes The old mentality is the main reason why they leave this country permanently.

Taylor Iwata (left), Steven Hashimoto and their dog Oscar outside their home in Vancouver. The couple said that Japanese society’s intolerance and politicians’ outdated sexual attitudes were the main reasons they left the country. (Maggie McPherson/Canadian Broadcasting Corporation)

“There is a lot of peer pressure, and social expectations are very high,” said 55-year-old Hashimoto.

He said that many people want him to have two children at this stage of life. “Otherwise, they will say that you are a bit…unique-in a negative way.”

But in Canada, “no one cares about who you are — in a good way — so you can be yourself regardless of gender,” said 39-year-old Iwata.

Watch | Steven Hashimoto describes the subtleties of his relationship with Japan by marriage:

Steven Hashimoto said that for his husband, he adapted to the conservative attitude of his in-laws towards LGBT people. 2:27

Although there is no national law to protect LGBT people, Japanese society has shown signs of acceptance by more and more people in recent years.

Under increasing pressure from rights protection groups, since 2015, more than 100 city and county governments have issued same-sex partnership certificates, granting gay couples some rights that only heterosexual couples could enjoy.

These include jointly applying for public housing, designating a partner as an insurance beneficiary, and being able to visit a critically ill partner in the hospital. (However, these certificates are not legally binding and depend to a large extent on goodwill to be effective.)

At the same time, a National survey A survey conducted by Hiroshima Shudo University in 2019 found that 65% of participants support same-sex marriage—an increase of 14 percentage points from 2015.

Watch | Tyler Iwata calls for more integration into Japanese society:

Tyler Iwata from Vancouver asked Japanese parents to imagine how their children would feel if they were LGBT and were bullied. 1:57

In March of this year, a district court in northern Japan rule The government’s prohibition of same-sex marriage is unconstitutional, and this is the first time in the country’s history that the rights of same-sex couples have been recognized.

The ruling can now be used by the country’s Supreme Court as a precedent for reviewing the constitutionality of government actions.

After the Sapporo District Court ruled that the government banned same-sex marriage as unconstitutional, the plaintiff’s lawyers and supporters appeared outside the court in March. (Kyodo News Agency/Reuters)

Hashimoto said that although the ruling is a ray of hope, he believes that only under pressure from the United Nations, foreign governments and international advocacy groups can Japan be able to change further.

Minky Worden, Director of Global Initiatives for Human Rights Watch, based in New York, said her organization will continue to fight for same-sex marriage and laws to protect LGBT people in Japan’s workplaces, schools, and all aspects of life, after the Tokyo Olympics.

“Canadians can definitely ask your government, your sports organization, and others to convey their expectations that as a host country, Japan should uphold human rights, especially LGBT rights,” Warden said.

Watch | Minky Worden urges Canada to ally with Japan’s LGBT community:

Minky Worden of Human Rights Watch explained how Canadians can do their part to promote LGBT rights in Japan. 1:48

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