Japan’s former defense minister takes up fight for LGBTI rights

Tomomi Inada has said she wants to promote LGBTI issues as fierce debates over the acceptance of LGBTI rights continue

A former defense minister of Japan has said she aims to ‘promote understanding’ of LGBTI rights issues.

Tomomi Inada has described LGBTI rights as a ‘human rights issue’ which transcends left or right political beliefs.

The former minister said that she is working to raise awareness of LGBTI rights, and eventually hopes to introduce legislation supporting it.

However, she admits she’s facing an uphill battle.

Inada served as defense minister in the ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) from August 2016 to July 2017.

The politician is one of few influential members of the LDP to openly support LGBTI rights. A number of her colleagues have made anti-LGBTI statements in recent months.

Her comments also come as rights activists are becoming increasingly in advocating for LGBTI equality in Japan.

‘I think it’s a human rights issue’
In an article in the Singaporean newspaper The Straits Times, Inada said that a number of her former colleagues have been confused about her support for LGBTI rights.

‘People asked me if I’d turned left wing,’ Inada said.

‘It’s a tough situation for me, but I think it’s a human rights issue and nothing to do with being conservative or liberal.’

Many Japanese lawmakers are skeptical of furthering LGBTI rights out of fear that it could further impact the country’s population growth, which has remained stagnant for years.

‘There is so little understanding that some conservatives think recognizing LGBT people will destroy the traditional family, or reduce the birthrate,’ Inada added.

However, a growing number of people in Japan believe the country is falling behind other developed economies in the progression of LGBTI rights.

Many worry that the lack of LGBTI rights in Japan could negatively impact the economy by making the country less appealing to multinational companies which actively support LGBTI employees.

There is also speculation that the country’s attitude to LGBTI rights will come under greater international scrutiny when capital city Tokyo hosts the Olympics in 2020.

Far from full equality
Inada’s comments come amid a contentious fight for LGBTI rights in Japan.

The country is considered as generally progressive with regards to LGBTI rights, which has seen tangible progress in recent years.

Numerous cities have adopted the partnership oath system which allows same-sex couples to register with their local authorities.

The authorities have also announced that anti-discrimination legislation to protect LGBTI rights will be put in place while Tokyo hosts the 2020 Olympics

However, the LGBTI community still lacks full equality, and equal rights activists have become increasingly vocal.

Thursday (14 February), 13 same-sex couples filed lawsuits against Japan’s government, in a move which they hope will force the government to recognize equal marriage.

A politician making headlines for different reasons
Inada is part of a minority of influential politicians who have openly supported LGBTI rights in Japan.

Several of her colleagues in the LDP have courted headlines for speaking out against LGBTI rights or the LGBTI community.

In July last year, lower house MP Mio Sugita suggested that same-sex couples were ‘unproductive’ and should not be entitled to receive welfare in a magazine article.

Her comments were met with severe backlash. Several thousand people took to the streets in central Tokyo to protest her comments, and a petition demanding her apology gathered over 25,000 signatures.

Around the same time, fellow LDP lawmaker Tom Tanigawa drew flak for saying same-sex marriage was ‘like a hobby’.

In early January, Katsuei Hirasawa, a veteran LDP legislator, came under fire for saying that the ‘nation would collapse’ if everyone in Japan became LGBTI.

by Calum Stuart
Source – Gay Star News