Japan isn’t known for LGBT inclusivity—but Tokyo intends to change that by 2020.
On September 7, 2013, Tokyo was chosen as the site for the 2020 Olympics, making it the first Asian city to host the Summer Olympics more than once, and the fifth city to have done so in the world. Some LGBT rights activists were chagrined by the decision, as most LGBT members of society in Japan are not treated well.
While the country’s media may not shy away from depicting same-sex relationships, in real life the Japanese LGBT community is largely invisible due to societal norms. Same-sex couples face considerable discrimination when they seek housing together, and because they are not considered family, they can be denied hospital visitation rights.
Institutionalized homophobia led to trouble for Russia in 2014, when the Sochi Winter Olympics threw Russia’s harsh treatment of its LGBT community into the national spotlight, damaging its international reputation.
Although Japan does not have any explicitly anti-gay laws, it also doesn’t have any legislation protecting or supporting the LGBT community. Rather than use propaganda to dodge any criticism, some members of the nation’s government are seeking to enact real change.
On March 17, a Diet committee was assembled to look into how the LGBT community is treated in Japan, and how the situation can be improved. The group is seeking to avoid what happened.
At present, part of the planning for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics includes a policy to promote diversity at the Games—including sexuality. The nonpartisan body wrote in its prospectus, “it is no longer possible to ignore the various issues regarding sexual minorities when we are to recognize the importance of diversity.”
Committee member Hiroshi Hase said, “As it hosts the Olympic Games, there is no doubt that Japanese society will be questioned on how it treats its sexual minorities. We must substantiate the principles described in the basic plan of the Games.”