apan on Monday (22 July) elected its first openly-gay politician to the country’s national parliament.
LGBTI rights activist turned lawmaker Taiga Ishikawa won a seat for the main opposition Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan (CDPJ) in the Upper House.
‘I was calling for the acknowledgment of LGBT people in the election’ said after his win was announced, according to Asahi Shimbun.
‘A lot of people all over Japan plucked up their courage to vote for me. This acknowledges that we are here.’
Japan has elected at least eight openly-LGBTI politicians to posts in regional councils and parliaments.
Conservative Japan does not allow same-sex marriage. National laws do not protect LGBTI people from discrimination.
The ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) is notoriously anti-LGBTI. But, the CDPJ has drafted bills to protect LGBTI rights.
Ishikawa on Monday, therefore, promised to push ahead with bills affording marriage equality and protecting LGBTI people from discrimination.
‘I would like to do my best to enact both pieces of legislation,’ Ishikawa also said. ‘I want to support vulnerable people in this society as a politician.’
Openly-gay politician Taiga Ishikawa
Ishikawa made headlines in 2011 when he became one of the first openly-gay male politicians in Japan. He also became the first openly gay candidate for leadership of a parliamentary party in 2013.
But, since the early 2000s he has worked to promote LGBTI rights in the country.
The politician previously told Gay Star News his greatest achievement was establishing Peer Friends in 2004. The organization helps connect young LGBTI people in Japan so they don’t feel alone. ‘A friend is always necessary’, he also said.
The journey from activism to politics was ‘continuous’, according to Ishikawa. ‘If there’s something I need, I will try anything’.
As Toshima Ward Assembly Member, Ishikawa has worked with local LGBTI groups across Japan to recognize same sex unions.
It is also important to ‘check the administration with LGBT’s eyes’, said Ishikawa.
He, therefore, cited introducing gender-neutral changing rooms in public gymnasiums as an example.
According to Ishikawa, Japan has prejudice and misunderstanding over the LGBT community. Some people deem homosexuality unnatural and blame it for declining birthrates in the country.
’To eliminate such prejudice and misunderstanding, therefore, we need to present LGBT issues as a matter of human rights,’ he said.