National

Tokyo adopts ordinance banning discrimination against LGBT community

by Magdalena Osumi

Staff Writer

In a bid to curtail hate speech ahead of the 2020 Games, Tokyo on Friday adopted an anti-discrimination ordinance aimed at protecting the LGBT community.

The rule is the first ordinance at the prefectural level to contain a stipulation prohibiting discrimination against LGBT people and other sexual and gender minorities.

The Tokyo Metropolitan Assembly approved the ordinance at its regular session held Friday, despite criticism that there had been insufficient debate over potential conflicts between the measure and laws to protect free speech.

The goal of the ordinance, which is scheduled to take effect in April, is to use edifying campaigns and education to realize the Olympic Charter goal of respect for human rights.

The charter is a set of rules and guidelines documenting the fundamental Olympic principles. It states: “The enjoyment of the rights and freedoms set forth in the Olympic Charter shall be secured without discrimination of any kind, such as race, color, sex, sexual orientation, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status.”

In 2014 the International Olympic Committee added an anti-discrimination clause for hosts, after the global controversy that surrounded the Sochi Games following Russia’s passage of an anti-gay law in 2013.

To ensure equal enjoyment of human rights, the Tokyo ordinance will regulate use of public spaces such as parks to prevent groups from promoting hateful rhetoric.

The ordinance is designed to improve access for same-sex couples in situations such as hospital visits and shared renting of apartments as family.

It also stipulates the disclosure of names of groups and individuals promoting hate speech if the governor deems their activities a violation of human rights. Under the ordinance, such groups can be required to remove hateful content from their websites.

The ordinance includes awareness-raising measures to improve understanding of the LGBT community, and the metropolitan government also plans to set up centralized consultation centers for LGBT people to offer various forms of support for sexual minority groups. Although Japan doesn’t have laws against homosexuality or other sexual minorities, it also doesn’t have national-level laws to protect their rights.

Lawmakers from Tomin First no Kai (Tokyoites First), Komeito, the Constitutional Democratic Party and the Japanese Communist Party backed the ordinance. “We can’t wait for the central government (to introduce such steps) as its timeline remains vague,” Hirotaka Motohashi of Tomin First said at Friday’s assembly meeting. He said that ensuring sexual minorities’ equal rights will become a legacy of the 2020 Games.

The Liberal Democratic Party strongly opposed the ordinance, saying its content and preparation were sloppy, and stressed that the rule may curtail freedom of expression.

Kagayake Tokyo, an independent assembly faction, abstained, pointing to lack of penal provisions and emphasizing that the topic requires more thorough discussion.