Human rights group, Amnesty International Japan, recently released a proposal to the Japanese government earlier this month on measures that they must take to tackle discrimination against those in the LGBT group. The contents covered a range of situations from discrimination in workplaces to when natural disasters hit.

To tackle LGBT discrimination in Japan, many agreed that the government needed to take a more proactive stance on the situation and introduce an anti-discrimination legislation and further educate not just teachers, but government workers as well on gender equality. At companies, it was very common to hide one’s sexual orientation and gender identity in fear of losing one’s own job or facing discrimination. Same-sex couples were also denied rights such as employment benefits and regularly suffered harassment at work. The proposal also called for the removal of gender identity from being classified as a mental disease and for the education of medical experts and institutions on the matter. 

Transgender Japanese

In relation to our course themes, there is a clear inequality in terms of human rights. Because of inexperience, unawareness and lack of understanding, those who identify in the LGBT community are discriminated and seen as an “outsider” to society. Similarly in the texts we read, there are clear examples of discrimination despite everyone being human. In Rappaccini’s Daughter, Beatrice is seen as a poisonous plant which causes Giovanni to doubt her. In Mary Shelley’s The Last Man, the Irish and Americans were seen as savages. And in Shakespeare’s The Tempest, Caliban was enslaved because of his lack of education on society. What all these examples have in common are how the victims are viewed as “the other”. Due to fear and lack of understanding from the other party, they were ultimately discriminated.

Of course, this problem does not just persist in Japan, but everywhere around us today. Recently a friend of mine who identifies in the community, showed me a message from her high school friend of 4 years. In it she states:

“… But when we were hanging and having fun, my parents were definitely not happy about that, as they think you are rather an outsider of a society that would be shunned at from people. I know I sound like an old conservative Asian parent, but the society did not change, will not change, and we cannot change that too. I am definitely afraid of the people, unlike you. And I am also afraid of being shunned at, and being an outsider.”

Following this message, she proceeded to block my friend from all her social media and cut ties with her despite claiming to be best friends.

Why must we continue to discriminate others just because of their gender or sexual orientation? All human beings deserve the same equal rights and respect. Taro O’ Sullivan, executive director of Amnesty International Japan said during a news briefing “I want you to think about what it means to love. To love beyond genders, to love beyond borders, to love beyond political differences” (Kikuchi).

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