The government granted refugee status to a foreign national in 2018 over fears of persecution owing to the person’s same-sex sexual orientation, sources with knowledge of the matter said Tuesday.
The case was the first in which Japan has recognized a foreign national as a refugee for such a reason, according to the Immigration Services Agency.
The agency did not disclose the nationality, gender or other personal details of the person in question.
Sexual acts between members of the same sex are subject to imprisonment in the home country of the foreign national, according to the agency. The person was arrested and held in prison for two years there.
The person applied for refugee status after being freed on bail and arriving in Japan.
According to the International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association (ILGA), some 70 countries, mainly Middle East and African nations, ban same-sex relationships.
“We welcome the move as a step forward taken finally,” said Eri Ishikawa, head of the Japan Association for Refugees, adding that it is common globally for people to be granted refugee status owing to their sexual orientation.
The government should accept more refugees in line with international standards, and offer more financial support for asylum-seekers while they wait for their applications to be screened, Ishikawa said.
Japan is seeing an increase in moves to support the rights of LGBT couples. On Monday, Ibaraki Prefecture became the first prefecture to officially recognize same-sex couples.
In March, the Justice Ministry revoked a deportation order for a gay Taiwanese man who lives in Japan with a Japanese partner and granted him special permission to stay, apparently in consideration of his rights as a member of a sexual minority.
The Immigration Services Agency said 10,493 people applied for refugee status in Japan in 2018. Of them, 42 were given refugee status for fears of persecution because of sexual orientation, religion, political thought or other reasons.