When will Japan board the Equality train?
Although liberal when compared to other Asian countries, Japan is still relatively backwards when it comes to LGBTQI rights. While there has been no prohibition of same-sex activities since 1880 and the age of consent is equal since that date, same-sex couples are not eligible for rights and protection enjoyed by their heterosexual counterparts. Many Japanese citizens therefore experience disadvantages when it comes to property or hereditary matters, not to mention immigration of partners of LGBTQI citizens..
Equally there is no real protection for LGBTQI people, at least in no explicit form, in such areas as employment, education, housing, health care and banking.
But there are signs that the situation is changing, especially because a growing number of younger Japanese citizens are increasingly showing more a liberal outlook than their parents. A 2015 opinion poll found 51 percent of respondents were in favour of same-sex marriage. More than than 70 percent of those in their twenties approved, compared with only 24 percent among people in their seventies.
Speaking to Bloomberg News on the day Australia became the latest nation to legalize gay marriage, Kanako Otsuji, 42, the only openly gay member of parliament in the country with the main opposition Constitutional Democratic Party, has expressed the hope that one day her country will also be able to recognise LGBT relationships. However she faces a stiff opposition from conservative elements in Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s ruling party
"First of all we want to pass a law banning discrimination," Otsuji, a new lower house member with the main opposition Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan, said Thursday at her offices in Tokyo. "It will then become clear that the lack of a law permitting same-sex marriage or partnership is discriminatory.”
Passing such a bill will require a lot of compromise and cross-party agreement, something that makes the path of any equality legislation very steep, because although those in their twenties and thirties may support a change in attitudes, low voting rates among these age groups mean that politicians must appeal to the over-fifties, Otsuji said.