Fumio Kishida, Japan’s Prime Minister, has been chastised for claiming that the country’s ban on same-sex marriage is not discriminatory.He apologized to the LGBTQ community weeks ago for homophobic remarks made by an aide who has since been fired.
As more Japanese accept same-sex marriage, Mr Kishida’s party is under increasing pressure to promote LGBTQ rights. Japan is the only G7 member that does not acknowledge such unions.
When asked by an opposition politician if the country’s current law constituted discrimination, the Prime Minister responded on Tuesday, “I don’t think disallowing same-sex couples to marry is unjust discrimination by the state.”
On Wednesday, the prime minister restated his position that a ban on same-sex marriage is “not unconstitutional,” but that his stance should not be interpreted as discriminatory.
Local LGBTQ groups have accused Mr Kishida of backtracking on recent commitments, claiming that his words contradicted his deeds.
Last month, he met with LGBTQ activists after firing his Executive Secretary, Masayoshi Arai, who declared he didn’t “even want to look at” sexual minorities. He named a special aide to deal with LGBTQ problems and stated that his party would examine a new measure.
Activists also argued that Mr Kishida’s claim that same-sex marriage is “not unconstitutional” in Japan is incorrect, given that local courts have found otherwise in at least two precedent-setting rulings.
According to the Marriage for All Japan organisation, public opinion on same-sex marriage has shifted, particularly among younger people. According to a recent study, two-thirds of voters favour legalising same-sex marriage.
“I think this is one of the reasons why the government is estranged from public opinion, because the most in the heart of the government are elderly men,” said Makiko Terahara, chairperson of the group.
Some couples have taken the ban to court, with different degrees of success.
In November 2022, a Tokyo court upheld the ban on same-sex marriage but said that denying same-sex couples legal protections was discriminatory. Rights activists hailed the verdict as a victory for highlighting the need to change present legislation.
As it prepares to host the G7’s next meeting in May, the government is also under pressure from its G7 counterparts to accept LGBTQ rights.
Although LGBTQ rights have improved in Asia, Taiwan remains the region’s sole territory that acknowledges same-sex marriage.