National / Crime & Legal

Court rejects damages claim against Hitotsubashi University over death of outed gay student

Kyodo

A court on Wednesday rejected a damages suit filed against a university in Tokyo by the parents of a graduate law student, who died after he was outed as gay by another student in 2015.

The parents sued Hitotsubashi University, claiming the state-run school failed to respond properly to the outing of the 25-year-old that led to his death.

But the Tokyo District Court ruled the university had not failed in its responsibility to secure a safe environment for its students, with presiding Judge Masanori Suzuki saying there was no issues with the way professors and staff members had dealt with the situation.

The student was exposed as gay by the other student to a group of about 10 peers on messaging app Line in June 2015. Two months later, the student suffered a panic attack in class and left before fatally falling from a university building.

He had been asking the university to allow him to switch classes, according to the complaint.

The parents had initially sued the other student as well, but the parties have since reached a settlement.

During the trial, the parents said the university failed to understand the case as a human rights issue and create a harassment-free environment for its students by properly educating them that mocking sexual minorities is sexual harassment.

The university had argued that while it can take measures to heighten awareness, it is impossible to prevent specific acts of harassment.

The city of Kunitachi, where the university is located, introduced in April last year an ordinance that states people should not disclose other people’s sexual orientation or gender identity against their will.

In Japan, at least one in 11 people identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender, according to a survey conducted last October by advertising giant Dentsu Inc., covering 60,000 people aged between 20 and 59 nationwide.

Still, discriminatory comments against the LGBT community are not uncommon in the country. Last year, a ruling party lawmaker faced criticism for saying in a magazine article that the government should not offer support to sexual-minority couples because they cannot bear offspring and thus are not “productive.”

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