Human rights group issues report on tackling LGBT discrimination

by Daisuke Kikuchi

Staff Writer

Amnesty International Japan released a proposal Tuesday to the government on measures that the country must take to tackle discrimination against LGBT people.

The measures cover situations ranging from discrimination in workplaces to treatment at detention facilities when they commit crimes to when natural disasters hit. The report maintains that the government needs to solve problems in LGBT health care stemming from discrimination and lack of awareness of needs by medical professionals. The proposal also addresses the issue of LGBT family life and benefits.

“I want you to think about what it means to love. To love beyond genders, to love beyond borders, to love beyond political differences,” said Taro O’Sullivan, executive director of Amnesty International Japan, during a news briefing held at the organization’s Tokyo headquarters on Tuesday.

The proposal, written both in Japanese and English, was released on Amnesty’s official website.

To accomplish a society free of discrimination, the proposal says that the government should first introduce anti-discrimination legislation, further educate government workers and teachers on gender equality, and establish a national institution on human rights that is independent from the government.

In terms of employment, they asked the government to monitor workplace environments to ensure that measures to counter discriminatory behavior are effective.

“Hiding one’s sexual orientation or gender identity is still common, due to a fear of losing one’s job or facing discrimination, both in the public and the private sector,” the proposal said.

Same-sex couples are in many cases denied employment benefits, and LGBT people regularly suffer gender-based harassment at the workplace, it said.

On health, they asked the government to remove gender identity from the classification of mental diseases, to abolish inappropriate requirements for obtaining legal gender recognition, to educate medical experts, and to set certain health treatments required by transgender people to be covered by the national health insurance and public health systems.

As for problems related to family life, they asked for the recognition of marriages of same-sex couples, to accord benefits from other forms of recognized partnerships, and to allow legal name change or gender change through accessible and transparent procedures.

They also stressed that the government must take further measures to resist discrimination against LGBT people in detention facilities and in disaster shelters.

After the massive earthquake and tsunami hit the Tohoku area in 2011, transgender people faced difficulty accessing bathrooms or showers and obtaining necessary relief supplies including underwear or sanitary items, according to Tohoku-based LGBT organization Iwate Rainbow Network, which helped draft the proposal.

Amnesty called on the government to monitor and identify instances of discrimination during disasters, and to consult with civil societies including LGBT organizations when developing preventive measures.

In 2015, Tokyo’s Shibuya Ward introduced an ordinance allowing the issuance of a certificate to same-sex couples, recognizing their relationships as equivalent to marriage. Similar moves were followed by other cities, including Sapporo.

The proposal was published as a part of a campaign titled “Love Beyond Genders.” Held in cooperation with civil groups, it is aimed at propelling local governments to prepare such ordinances.

“We’d like the campaign to involve the whole country, not just Tokyo or Kasumigaseki,” said Erina Yamashita, a director at Amnesty Japan.

The proposal can be read in full at www.amnesty.org/en/documents/asa22/5955/2017/en/