National / Social Issues

Bunkyo plans measures to aid sexual minorities

by Mami Maruko

Staff Writer

Tokyo’s Bunkyo Ward will consider measures relating to sexual minorities by March 2016, a ward official said, following a recent proposal by Shibuya Ward to issue certificates recognizing same-sex unions.

The measures have yet to be decided, and while it remains to be seen whether they will include recognition certificates, Bunkyo intends to introduce policies that are more inclusive of members of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community, an official said.

The measures are part of a larger project to update an ordinance Bunkyo passed in November 2013 to promote gender equality and end discrimination based on sexual orientation. The ordinance also seeks to eradicate domestic violence and sexual harassment.

The ward, home of the University of Tokyo and many other top-tier educational institutions, has already held several discussions with LGBT people and groups on possible amendments to the ordinance.

“We are proud to be the first ward out of the 23 wards in Tokyo to clearly state in our ordinance that practices that discriminate against people based on gender, as well as sexual orientation and gender identity, are prohibited,” Hidehiro Suzuki, a manager of Bunkyo’s department of gender equality and child care support, told The Japan Times.

The ward will not restrict discussions to issuing certificates in support of same-sex unions, Suzuki said, but will “consider and implement necessary measures” in whatever ways possible.

Of 21 wards recently polled by The Japan Times on LGBT policies, including plans to introduce same-sex union certificates, Bunkyo was the only one that replied positively to all three questions asked. Aside from Shibuya Ward, Setagaya Ward is also considering whether to issue certificates recognizing long-term same-sex couples.

Bunkyo Ward offers consultation services that include LGBT people and advertises them via posters on 198 local notice boards. It has also sponsored a national symposium on sexual minorities and trained staff to be more sensitive to LGBT issues.

Furthermore, Bunkyo Ward plans to hold lectures about LGBT issues for elementary and junior high school students by the end of March, Suzuki said.

“I feel it’s especially important to educate children and deepen their understanding of LGBT people,” he said. “Learning about them is not a matter of ideology, but a matter of protecting their human rights, lives, and physical and psychological health.”

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