LGBT rights in Japan

LGBT rights in Japan

Age of sexual consent legislation

There are no explicit religious prohibition against homosexuality in the traditional religions of Japan: Shintoism, Buddhism, or Confucianism. Homosexuality among Buddhist monks or samurai was not uncommon (see Shudō). Sodomy was first criminalized in Japan in 1873, in the early Meiji era, to comply with the newly-introduced beliefs of Western Culture. But this provision was repealed only seven years later by the Penal Code of 1880 [] . Since then, Japan has had no laws against homosexuality. Technically, sex among consenting adults, in private, regardless of sexual orientation and/or gender, is not a crime under National legislation. However, some local governments and prefectures have "indirectly" addressed homosexuality by enacting laws that effectively raise the age of consent for homosexual conduct to eighteen, on the grounds of protecting the youth.

* Age of consent in Asia


Prostitution is illegal under the 1958 "Prostitution Prevention Act" under the National Criminal Code. However, since homosexuality is not seen as sexual conduct in the National criminal code but rather define it as "seikou-ruiji-kōi" (similar to sexual conduct), homosexual prostitution is often dealt with other local prefecture laws.


The Japanese Self Defence Force does not formally bar volunteers on the basis of sexual orientation but in 1992 a representative for the SDF stated that there are no homosexuals in the Defence ForceFact|date=May 2007, suggesting that openly gay servicemen or lesbian servicewomen could be punished for their sexuality. So far, however, there have been no open instances of gay-bashing or harassment in the armed forces against gay or lesbian servicemen or women.

Japanese civil rights laws do not include protection from discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity. However, in 1997 the group OCCUR (Japan Association for the Lesbian and Gay Movement) won a court case against a Tokyo government policy that barred gay and lesbian youth from using the "Metropolitan House for Youth." While the court ruling does not seem to have extended to other areas of government sponsored discrimination, the city government of Tokyo has since passed legislation banning discrimination in employment based on sexual identity.

In 2004 Kazuhito Tadano, a Japanese baseball pitcher, joined the American Cleveland Indians. His appearance in a gay pornographic film, along with other team members, when he was a member of the Rikkyo University baseball team led to him being avoided in the draft. He later stated that his appearance in the film was exclusively for money and not because of his sexual orientation. After 4 years in Major League Baseball, he was released from Sacramento River Cats. On 2007 draft, he was drafted by Hokkaido Nippon Ham Fighters as the first round pick.


The discrimination in accommodation in regard to the sexual orientation was prohibited and explicitly stated as a human right which the government must protect in a landmark decision by Tokyo High Court on September 19, 1997 over the use of public hostel by a same-sex right group. On February 11, 1990, while staying at the hostel, the right group, OCCUR (Japan Association for the Lesbian and Gay Movement), was harassed by other guests from a youth football club, a Christian youth group, and a female choir group. On the next day, right group's leader asked other group's leaders to stop the harassment. The leader of the only group still staying, the Christian youth group, refused citing as condemning the same-sex relationship. When the right group asked for the use of hostel again, the request was denied by both hostel and Tokyo Metropolitan Government Board of Education. The right group sued Tokyo prefecture for the compensation for damage and the affirmation of right to use the hostel or any public facility. After the 6 year court battle, Tokyo High Court found the suit to be in favor of the right group. The case was not brought to Supreme Court. However, it is cited as the case law prohibiting discrimination in accommodation.

In 2005, Japanese politician Kanako Otsuji was instrumental in bringing about a legislative change that allows same-sex couples to rent housing from the Osaka Prefectural Housing Corporation. This was a privilege previously limited to married couples. Since same-sex marriages are not recognised under Japanese law, gay couples in Osaka had previously found it impossible to rent public housing.

Medical issues

In terms of transgender issues, the Japan's Health and Welfare Ministry modified its policy in 1998 to allow doctors in Japan to perform gender-reassignment surgeries even to minors if the parents consent.Fact|date=March 2007

Political support

The major Japanese political parties do not express much public support for LGBT rights issues. In 1994 the then Foreign Minister Koji Kakizawa stated in "Shokun!" magazine that he was opposed to his party simply calling themselves the Liberals, because it might lead people to believe that they supported homosexuals.

Both the ruling Liberal Democrats and Komei pledge to oppose all discrimination that women face, but do not address the issue of sexual orientation. Likewise, the major opposition party, the Democratic Party of Japan only offers a broad endorsement of equal opportunity. Yet, even the minor political parties have been reluctant to publicly endorse LGBT rights. cite web|url=|publisher=The International Lesbian and Gay Association|title=World Legal Survey: Japan|date=2000-07-31|accessdate=2006-08-30]

The defunct Japanese Green Party Rainbow and Green refused to address the issue, although as a part of the "Global Greens" movement they technically had endorsed a broad human rights agenda that included gay rights. The Liberal League homepage states that it opposes "any form of discrimination". Likewise the Japanese Communist Party also avoids the issue.

In 2001 The Council for Human Rights Promotion, under the Ministry of Justice, recommended that sexual orientation be included in the nation's civil rights code, but the Diet has refused to take action.

In 2003 Aya Kamikawa became the first openly transgender politician to be elected to public office in Japan, Tokyo's municipal assembly.

In 2004 A special law went into effect on July 16th allowing transgender people to change genders on family registers under certain conditions.

In 2005 Kanako Otsuji, from the Osaka Prefectural Assembly, became the first gay politician to formally come out at the Tokyo Gay Pride Festival.


The Japanese Department of Registration (Gaimusho, 外務省) recently received the order to confirm the heterosexual status of couples applying for marriage licenses, and, if the members of the couple were not of different sexes, to decline the application. Same-sex marriage(s), civil union(s) and/or domestic partnership(s) performed in other jurisdictions (such as Germany, Canada, etc) have no legal standing in Japan.


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