April 27 was the inauguration of Tokyo Rainbow Week, a new event aimed at supporting sexual minorities. According to the website, the 10-day series of events seeks to promote a “friendly and accepting society where anybody can be themselves and lead a life of happiness and optimism.”
Those goals are admirable ones that deserve the support of all people, regardless of their sexual orientation.
Even though Tokyo is the world’s largest city, individuals with a lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender (LGBT) identity have long been unrecognized at best and victimized by discrimination at worst. Current estimates of the size of the LGBT population in Japan are around 5 percent, about what it is in the United States and Europe. While the demographics can be hard to ascertain, the number of individuals forms a sizable minority.
The Rainbow Week strives in the best possible way to update attitudes and provide education through parades, outdoor events, films, symposiums and lectures.
Organized by a consortium of committees and NPOs dedicated to the issue of LGBT rights, this year was the first time such a broad coalition has organized so many related events about the issue. It won’t be the last.
The Rainbow Week was supported financially by several corporations, such as IBM, Alfa Romeo and Google among others. Those corporations deserve credit for offering their names and credibility for such a worthy cause. Perhaps next year, other corporations will also show their sensitivity, awareness and business sense by supporting the week.
After all, whether they are open about it or not, plenty of LGBT individuals work in those and other companies, and use and buy their products.
Thousands of people of all sexual orientations participated in the first parade in Harajuku and many more joined events and activities through the week. The Rainbow Week took a soft approach to the human rights of LBGT people by establishing community, finding support and educating people who know little of what just might be Japan’s largest minority group.
Events like this in other countries have already helped to achieve increased legal protections and better social acceptance for LGBT individuals. It is likely to do so here.
A thriving, fair and open democracy is one where all members of society, regardless of their political views, sexuality or beliefs, can live and work without discrimination or unfair treatment and contribute their best.