Showing posts with label Gay Marriage-Japan. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Gay Marriage-Japan. Show all posts

November 27, 2019

The Support For Gay Marriage in Japan is Overwhelming, But Is It Enough To Pass The Law?

                   Image result for japanese gardens

TOKYO — In April, Ikuo Sato stood in front of a Tokyo court and told the world he was gay.

To a packed room, he described the anxiety he had felt as a young man, struggling to express his sexuality in Japan’s restrictive society. If the law is changed to allow same-sex marriage, he said, perhaps “we’ll make a society where the next generation doesn’t have to feel that way.”

Somewhere in the courtroom, his partner sat silently watching, hoping to go unnoticed. His family and co-workers do not know he is gay, and he hopes — at least for now — to keep it that way, fearing discrimination in his workplace.

The couple’s story epitomizes the contradictions that shape the lives of gay people across Japan.

In many ways, there has been a dramatic change. Lawsuits filed this year by Mr. Sato, his partner and five other couples seeking recognition of same-sex marriage are the first of their kind in Japan. Public support for same-sex marriage has surged in the last few years, making it seem suddenly within reach. Local governments are increasingly recognizing same-sex partnerships, and even Japan’s famously rigid companies have begun coming out in favor of them.

Yet in other ways, the gains remain abstract. Gay people face overwhelming pressure to conform to the silent, stifling norms of a society in which many parents and workers are still uncomfortable with the idea of their own children and colleagues being gay. And the conservative politicians who run the country and extol its sometimes inflexible culture refuse to touch the issue.
“The Japanese people think we should recognize same-sex marriage,” said Taiga Ishikawa, who in July became the first openly gay man elected to the country’s Parliament. But, he said, some politicians in the governing party “still have outdated views on this,” adding that there is a mistaken belief “that same-sex relationships are a ‘hobby’ or will add to the declining birthrate.”

A recent poll reflected the dichotomy. The survey, by the advertising giant Dentsu, found that more than half of gay men and lesbians in Japan were concerned about coming out. Yet it also showed that almost 80 percent of people 60 and under now support same-sex marriage.

That widespread backing, a jump of 20 or more points in just a few years, comes as Japan has caught up with patterns in other developed countries and has experienced what many describe as a “boom” in L.G.B.T. awareness.

Advocates see the groundswell in support as an opening.

Haru Ono, an illustrator and rights activist, and her partner, Asami Nishikawa, who are in their 40s and live together in a Tokyo suburb, have long thought it was unfair that they could not marry. But they kept their activism quiet, fearing that making their relationship public could expose their children — who are now grown — to bullying at school.

A run-in with a hospital changed all that. When Ms. Nishikawa brought one of Ms. Ono’s children in for a procedure, the staff refused to allow her to check the boy in, saying that he needed to be accompanied by a member of his “real family.” 
The experience “haunted me for a long time,” Ms. Ono said. Her anxiety only grew when she learned she had breast cancer and began to fear that her partner might not be allowed to be with her as she underwent treatment.


ImageIkuo Sato in Tokyo.

Ikuo Sato in Tokyo.Credit...Chang W. Lee/The New York Times
For years, Ms. Ono said, lawyers had told the couple that “the time wasn’t right” to sue the government for the right to marry. Then, suddenly, it was. In February, they joined the 12 other couples across Japan in filing lawsuits. Others have since followed.

A galvanizing moment had come the previous summer. In an interview with Shincho 45, a conservative magazine, a lawmaker, Mio Sugita, dismissed gay men and lesbians as “unproductive” members of society who would not bear children. Ms. Sugita speculated that recognizing same-sex marriage could cause Japan to collapse as it faces a growing population crisis.

The remarks were widely publicized, raising awareness of discrimination against gay people, said Alexander Dmitrenko, a Canadian lawyer and resident of Tokyo who has been a prominent advocate of same-sex marriage.

“It was like Japan’s Stonewall,” he said, referring to the 1969 police raid and following protests that set off the gay rights movement in the United States.

When Taiwan approved Asia’s first same-sex marriage law this May, he said, it was a further prod for many Japanese, who have long prided themselves on being the leading democracy in the region.
Noting the country’s L.G.B.T. “boom,” Kazuya Kawaguchi, a sociology professor at Hiroshima Shudo University, pointed to two television dramas featuring the lives of gay men — “Ossan’s Love” and “What Did You Eat Yesterday?” — that became surprise hits this summer. Four episodes of “Queer Eye” were also set in Japan.

The television dramas “improved people’s impressions of gay couples,” Mr. Kawaguchi said, adding that “the way they were shot, the language, was easy to understand.”

At the same time, attitudes have been changing among Japanese companies as they have embraced gay consumers and steadily increased their support for gay employees.

Still, many of them have stopped short of becoming involved in the politics of same-sex marriage.

In September 2018, the American Chamber of Commerce in Japan issued a position paper arguing that legalizing same-sex marriage would make the country more attractive for talent from abroad. Sixty-seven organizations have signed on to the statement, but so far only a handful have been Japanese firms, including Panasonic and the building materials manufacturer Lixil.

While domestic media coverage of changing norms abroad has “contributed to a huge amount of discussion here, very few people in the Japanese corporate workplace or in family situations feel comfortable coming out,” said Laurence Bates, 63, who became one of the few openly gay directors of a major Japanese company last year when he was appointed to Panasonic’s board.

The mixed feelings are evident in statistics from the 26 localities that recognize same-sex partnerships. As of October, only 617 couples had registered their partnerships, according to Nijiiro Diversity, a nonprofit that fights discrimination against gay people in the workplace. Advocates note, however, that the process involves considerable red tape and delivers few concrete benefits.

On the national level, the governing Liberal Democratic Party has refused to deliberate a bill proposed by opposition parties that would change Japan’s civil code to recognize same-sex marriages. 

The party insists that legalizing the unions would require changing the country’s Constitution: Article 24 of the document says that “marriage shall be based only on the mutual consent of both sexes,” language that conservative lawmakers have interpreted as requiring the participation of one man and one woman.

That argument, however, has already begun to show weaknesses. The Japan Federation of Bar Associations has rejected the position, and in September, a local court became the first in Japan to recognize two people of the same sex as being in a common-law marriage. In the ruling, in which a woman whose female partner had an affair was awarded damages, the judge said that Article 24’s wording did not prohibit unions between same-sex partners.

The lawyers fighting on behalf of Mr. Sato, Ms. Ono and the other couples hope that their lawsuits will make it even harder for the government to continue making its claim.

It could be several years, though, before the courts issue a judgment, said Makiko Terahara, the lead lawyer on the case and a director of Marriage for All Japan, a nonprofit organization.

“It’s an important tool, but of course it’s better if the Diet were to make same-sex marriage a reality by changing civil law first,” she said, referring to the national Parliament.

Makiko Terahara, an Attorney of Law in Tokyo.

Makiko Terahara, an Attorney of Law in Tokyo.Credit...Noriko Hayashi for The New York Times
For couples, a change in the law cannot come soon enough.

“The No. 1 reason I thought I had to participate in this lawsuit was that I wanted to show my children that it’s O.K. that we’re a family,” Ms. Ono said. 

“When we’re at home, we’re very naturally a family, but when we go out, there are times when we are treated as though we aren’t,” she added.

Mr. Sato, who works at a nonprofit promoting H.I.V. education, does not know if he will be around to see the change. He is H.I.V.-positive and has diabetes and high blood pressure. “I hope it happens while I’m still alive,” he said.

He expects that the legalization of same-sex marriage will encourage his partner to express his sexuality beyond the gay community and open up to his family and colleagues.

“There would be no greater happiness,” he told the court, “than legally marrying my partner and becoming a couple in the real sense before I die.”

Ben Dooley reports on Japan’s business and economy, with a special interest in social issues and the intersections between business and politics. @benjamindooley

March 7, 2019

Gays in Japan Have Suffered Less Repression so You Had Less Calls For Marriage-That Could All Change Thanks to A BathHouse



Tokyo’s most popular cruising spot for gay men is a seven-story building tucked off a back street near the Shinjuku business and shopping area.

On Friday night, a steady stream of salary-men files quietly inside the 24 Kaikan bathhouse, where pretty much anything goes.
Soak in the sauna then walk semi-naked through the dimmed communal sleeping areas, where futons await.

Sample the sights or lie back and wait for someone who likes you, instructs a guide. Signs posted throughout dictate the only constantly visible rule: “gentlemen who chew gum” will be evicted.

Gays in Japan have suffered less outright repression than in Britain or Ireland
Tokyo has a reputation for being one of the world’s more uptight capitals but it hosts one of its most diverse concentration of gay clubs and bars: Shinjuku’s 2-Chome, home to the 24-Kaikan.
The area has coexisted for decades side by side with the straight world beyond its borders.

Lack of activism
This arrangement is, in many ways, very Japanese: discreet, compartmentalized; fastidiously careful about order and details.

Live and let live as long as the outward appearance of things is maintained.
Though tormented by the familiar agonies of personal identity and secrecy, gays in Japan have suffered less outright repression than in Britain or Ireland.
When police there were arresting men in toilets and public parks, Japan didn’t even have an anti-sodomy law.

Nor did it have what Mark McLelland, author of Homosexuality in Modern Japan: Cultural Myths and Social Realities, calls the “anti-homosexual rage” of many Christian cultures, the lethal fuel for homophobia and the “hyper violence” of gay-bashing incidents.

But if Japan has been easier going about its sexual preferences, it also lacks the political and social activism that helped transform the lives of homosexuals elsewhere.
There are still just a tiny handful of openly gay lawmakers
Homosexuals are still not legally recognized in Japanese civil law, and civil unions are prohibited. Gayness is still largely seen as a personal lifestyle choice, not something to be flaunted or argued over on the streets and in parliament.  

A group of people is now challenging that status quo.
Thirteen same-sex couples across Japan have gone to court to demand the right to marry. If they win, Japan will be the first Asian country to grant that right.

Suitably enough, they began their claim on Valentine’s Day.
They include a Japanese citizen, Ai Nakajima, who married her German partner, Tina Baumann, in Berlin.

The lack of legal status for their marriage in Japan makes life difficult, laments Baumann. For one thing, she said, if either one gets sick they may be blocked from hospital visits.

This legal fight is backed by a group of corporate lawyers who fear that Japan’s lack of sexual diversity while lagging behind the rest of the developed world, could also be bad for business.
“For the Japanese economy, it is very important to legalize the right (of gay people) to marry,” said Miki Sakakibara, president of the Japan In-House Lawyers Association.
“If you have a diversified environment it will be productive and competitive. This would be great for Japan.”


Public viewpoint
Signs of a shift in public perceptions are growing.
A small number of local governments across the country recognize same-sex partnerships. Last year the Tokyo government banned discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity.
Yet, while most Japanese people support more LGBT rights, political representation is strikingly low.
There are still just a tiny handful of openly gay lawmakers.

Some politicians, meanwhile, seem stuck in the homophobic past.
Last year, Mio Sugita, a member of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) and considered close to prime minister Shinzo Abe, called LGBT people “unproductive” because they do not have children (apparently oblivious to Abe’s own childlessness).
Sugita questioned the use of taxes to support gay couples.

The backlash was swift, forcing the LDP to reprimand her.
Shincho 45, the magazine that published the article later apologized and ceased publication.

That suggests the popular tide has turned and that the 13 couples may win their legal fight.
“We’re not demanding anything special,” one of the plaintiffs, Kenji Aiba, told journalists at the launch of the lawsuit. “We just want to have a chance to stand at the same starting line in our lives.”
Yet, courts in Japan move slowly and have a reputation for quixotic judgments. In the meantime, says Sakakibara, Japan’s LGBT community will live in hope.
“This is the right thing to do,” she says.

February 15, 2019

Gender Neutral Canadian Activist in Solidarity with Japan’s Fight For (gay) Same Sex Marriage

Gemma Hickey holds a driver's license and passport that designate their gender as "X" during a media briefing at the Canadian Embassy in Tokyo on Wednesday. | CHISATO TANAKA
Gemma Hickey 
Japan Times
Gemma Hickey entered Japan this week with something no Japanese national can obtain — a gender-neutral passport in which the gender category shows neither female nor male, but an “X.”
The 42-year-old Canadian, who became one of the first in the country to receive such a passport, made their first visit to Japan with the passport on Monday to screen the documentary “Just be Gemma,” which tells the story of Hickey’s gender transition.
“I’m here in solidarity with the activists from Japan,” said Hickey during a media briefing session held at the Canadian Embassy in Tokyo on Wednesday, in a show of support for the 13 LGBT couples who filed lawsuits against the Japanese government on Thursday seeking damages for not allowing them to marry. “I hope that sharing my experiences and challenges will build on good works that activists in Japan are doing.”
Hickey, who does not identify as a female or male and instead uses the pronoun “they,” was born and raised as a female and thought of themselves as gay during their teenage years — Hickey was not familiar with the word “transgender” at the time. Later, Hickey came out as transgender and underwent surgery and hormone treatment.
“But, I never really felt like I could fit into this binary of male or female,” said Hickey.
Hickey’s home province of Newfoundland and Labrador handled Hickey’s request to change their birth certificate to “X” after the case was brought to the Supreme Court in 2017.
In the same year, the Canadian government officially started implementing the “X” gender designation in legal documents such as passports, joining a few other countries across the globe including Denmark, Germany and Australia.
After receiving a gender-neutral passport, Hickey felt liberated when they were not stopped by airport staff to question why Hickey’s masculine appearance did not match the gender specified in their passport.
“I was often stopped by the security and had to stand aside. It was embarrassing as I was traveling with my mother,” said Hickey. “With a nonbinary passport, such troubles have never happened so far.”
Issuances of nonbinary passports seem to be a distant goal for activists in Japan, where same-sex marriages are not legally recognized. But Mika Yakushi, a representative director of the nonprofit organization ReBit, which studies LGBT issues, has noted that a similar trend is slowly spreading at the municipal level.
“There are many municipalities that have begun erasing questions related to gender in documents when it is not necessary,” Yakushi said during an interview with The Japan Times on Wednesday.
Hickey, a longtime activist who helped change the legal landscape of Canada, said that by traveling to countries with a nonbinary passport, they hope to make a positive international impact.
“There are many things I can learn from the cleanest and most organized city, Tokyo, and I hope I can leave some positive impacts in Japanese society,” Hickey said.

13 Same Sex Couples Filed Lawsuit in Japan Arguing Their Constitutional Rights Are Being Violated

Does This Case Reminds you of Something?? It does me and I never married and did not think that I might but for my community to be denied which includes everyone to have their rights violated as if they were less than straight couples. It offended me and many that did not even believed in marriage but for many, that was not the point but discrimination was and we stood united to have an unfair way to be treated review by the courts that demand everyone should be treated equally.   Adam Gonzalez
Thirteen same-sex couples have filed a lawsuit in Japan arguing that the country's rejection of same-sex marriage violates their constitutional rights. It's the first such lawsuit in the country, Japan Times reports.
While no laws on the books technically prohibit same-sex marriage, Japan's government has interpreted the constitution's marriage provisions to only permit marriage between heterosexual couples. But that reading ignores other parts of the constitution that guarantee equality, lawyers for the couples say.
"The constitution gives you the right to pursue happiness and equality before the law," said Yoshie Yokoyama, one of the group's lawyers, according to the South China Morning Post. "Not recognising same-sex marriage violates this."
Article 24 of the Japanese constitution states that "Marriage shall be based only on the mutual consent of both sexes and it shall be maintained through mutual cooperation with the equal rights of husband and wife as a basis." Most municipal governments won't accept the paperwork needed to register marriages between same-sex couples, the Post reports.
The lawsuits argue that Article 24 should be reinterpreted.
Marriage equality "is already a global trend, and this affects Japan as well," law professor Ken Suzuki, who helped organize the lawsuits, told the Post. "The government will not be able to ignore the trend of the times. I think that the next country in Asia to achieve marriage equality will be Japan."
Some municipalities across Japan have started to issue "partnership certificates" to gay and lesbian couples, the Times says. But those certificates don't grant all the rights that marriage does, such as inheritance rights, visitation rights during health emergencies and spousal visas.
Gay rights activists have accused Japan of being slow to embrace LGBT rights, being the only member of the G-7 that doesn't recognize same-sex unions. Indeed, Japanese society is generally quite conservative, lawmaker Mizuho Fukushima told the Associated Press. "Many people don't even think of a possibility that their neighbors, colleagues or classmates may be sexual minorities," she said. "The pressure to follow a conservative family model, in which heterosexual couples are supposed to marry and have children, is still strong."
Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has argued that allowing same-sex marriage is an issue that "affects the foundation of how families should be in Japan, which requires an extremely careful examination," the AP reported. Abe's government has restarted moral education classes to teach children about the importance of traditional family values and doing good deeds.
But Ai Nakajima, one of the plaintiffs named in the lawsuit, is hopeful that the legal landscape could change. While politicians tend to be older and hesitant to update the law, she told the BBC, "among younger people, there is overwhelming support for gay marriage."
Same-sex relationships haven't always been frowned upon in Japanese culture, Japan Today reports. "Historically, Japan was broadly tolerant of homosexuality, with documented cases of samurai warriors during feudal times having male lovers," Japan Today wrote. "But as Japan industrialized and modernized from the late 19th century, Western prejudices against homosexuality were increasingly adopted."

August 9, 2018

In Japan, Straight People Unable to Bear Children Blast Lawmaker For Saying LGBT Were Unproductive because They can't Reproduce

 *'My mom is lsevian'

 *'Some of our parents were closetted gays'

A group of people who can’t have children due to disability or illness protested Tuesday over a recent article written by a Liberal Democratic Party lawmaker who said gay and lesbian couples are unproductive because they don’t reproduce.
Speaking at a news conference at the health ministry, they said such views deeply hurt the feelings not only of sexual minorities but also of people who cannot have children due to illness or disability.
“I cannot have children because of the effects of medication, but I don’t believe that human value is decided by whether one can have children or not,” said Hiroko Uchiyama, 43, from the city of Hachioji in western Tokyo.
In the magazine article, Mio Sugita, a House of Representatives member with the ruling LDP, wrote that there is no justification for efforts by the state and municipalities to invest taxpayers’ money into policies supporting same-sex couples because “these men and women don’t bear children — in other words, they are ‘unproductive.’ “
Shoji Nakanishi, 74, also from Hachioji, who is partially paralyzed due to a cervical spine injury, said Sugita’s view was akin to that of the man indicted for killing 19 mentally disabled people at a care home in Kanagawa Prefecture in 2016. The man had said disabled people “should be eradicated from society.”
Nakanishi said he is concerned about “a growing trend to eliminate heterogeneity from society.”
The LDP posted a message on its website last week stating that Sugita’s views did not conform with the party’s official stance on issues related to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people.
However, LDP No. 2, Secretary-General Toshihiro Nikai, said in late July in reference to Sugita’s article that the LDP “is a gathering of wide-ranging people from right to left. Each (LDP politician) has his or her own political position and life philosophy.”
Nakanishi denounced Nikai’s remarks, saying he “tolerates and facilitates eugenics ideas.”

by KYODO.    Japan Times

* The quotes attributed to the characters in the pictures were just to make the point that gays do have children and to show how shamesly this lawmaker in Japan was about human biolagy and sexuality. I thought  that only applied to American lawmakers. No the baby could still not talk. 🦊adam

July 25, 2017

Kirin Beer Celebrates Same Sex Marriage iWith Its Employees in Japan

A step towards same-sex marriages being officially recognisedthroughout Japan?
With same-sex partnerships now officially recognised in some parts of Japan, a number of companies have made public announcements in support of greater LGBT rights and awareness within their corporations and in society in general. On the heels of Panasonic’s announcement last year, beer and soft drinks giant Kirin Holdings, Ltd. has announced a change to its guidelines to ensure there is no discrimination based upon sexual orientation or gender identity, and to recognise employees’ same-sex marriages from the start of this month. Common-law marriages will be similarly recognised.
Company rules regarding things like condolence leave, company housing, and assorted benefits will be rewritten so that common-law or same-sex couples receive them in the same way as their married colleagues currently do. Medical leave will also be changed to allow time off for procedures such as hormone therapy, which were previously not covered. They have also announced they will be holding workshops to raise diversity awareness amongst employees and customers.
▼ Kirin has previously been praised by Japanese LGBT groups for their packaging collaboration with Japanese company Glico, which showed same-sex couples kissing.

 The Kirin craft beer subsidiary Spring Valley Brewery also supported this year’s Tokyo Rainbow Pride event and had a booth there, with the rather catchy slogan that “both people and beers are all different, and are all good.”
While these are clearly positive changes and show a move in the right direction when it comes to equality, there is still a lot to be done. It’s fair to say that the support of large companies will go some way to influencing smaller companies and their workers in a trickle-down effect, although that may not create change as fast as some might like it.
While the LGBT community faces challenges all over the world, sometimes Japan can appear to have more hurdles than many other developed countries, as this commercial shows, and so these announcements, and those of housing organisations like Suumo, should be applauded. How about a beer to celebrate?
Source: Kirin
Top image: Flickr/Xiaojun Deng

February 13, 2015

District in Tokyo Approves Gives Same Rights to gay Married Couples


TOKYO — A district in Tokyo plans to give same-sex couples the same legal rights as married opposite-sex spouses, becoming the first local government in Japan to do so at a time when gay marriage is a hot-button issue in many countries.

On Thursday, the Shibuya Ward in central Tokyo unveiled a draft of the new statute, which it said would be put to a vote in the ward’s assembly next month. If approved, as expected, same-sex couples could apply for “proof of partnership” certificates starting April 1, said Shigeru Saito, a general affairs official.

Mr. Saito said that while the partnerships would not be legally binding, the move was intended to raise awareness about the rights of not only lesbians and gay men but also bisexual and transgender people. The law currently recognizes marriage as only between a man and woman.

While Japanese society is relatively tolerant of homosexuality, it has afforded few legal rights or protections to gays and lesbians. Same-sex couples have reported being barred from renting apartments together or from visiting each other in hospitals because they are not married.

Ken Hasebe, a ward assembly member who proposed the measure, said he wanted to reduce discrimination in housing, health care and other areas. He said the statute was modeled on laws in European countries like Germany, which permits domestic partnerships between gay couples.

He said he proposed the move after seeing surveys finding about 5 percent of Tokyo residents to be lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender. He said there had been growing attention to these residents’ rights because of the gay marriage debate in the United States and because a few actors and lawmakers in Japan have revealed that they are gay.

“My district is Harajuku, where there are a large number of L.G.B.T. people,” said Mr. Hasebe, referring to one of Tokyo’s trendiest areas. “Shibuya is an international community, so it is only natural that we have international levels of diversity.”

Wataru Ishizaka, a gay ward assembly member in a different part of Tokyo who has advocated for sexual minority issues, praised Shibuya’s move. He said he hoped it would eventually bolster the legal standing of gay people at the national level.

“I think we are behind the rest of the world,” he said. “But this is a first step.”

Hisako Ueno contributed reporting.

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