The powerful lower house of Japan’s parliament on Tuesday passed a bill to promote understanding of LGBTQ+ issues amid protests by activists that last-minute revisions by Prime Minister Fumio Kishida’s conservative party favored opponents of sexual equality instead of guaranteeing equal rights.
The passage followed only a few hours of debate in a lower house committee last Friday, an unusually short period. The bill is expected to be approved quickly by parliament’s upper house, which is also controlled by Kishida’s governing bloc.
Japan is the only member of the Group of Seven leading industrialized nations which does not have LGTBQ+ legal protections. Support for same-sex marriage and other rights has grown among the Japanese public, but opposition remains strong within the governing Liberal Democratic Party, known for conservative values and a reluctance to promote gender equality and sexual diversity.
The bill states that the public’s understanding of various sexual orientations and gender identities is “not necessarily sufficient.” It says conditions should be created so that “all citizens can live with peace of mind,” which critics say shows the governing party prioritized the concerns of opponents of equal rights over the rights of sexual minorities.
“We have sought the enactment of an anti-discrimination law,” the Japan Alliance for LGBT Legislation said in a statement. “This bill does not focus on the people concerned, and instead focuses on the side that has discriminated against us and caused our suffering. It’s the complete opposite of what we need.”