Many members of sexual minorities in Japan worry that catching the novel coronavirus could mean their sexual orientation is revealed against their will as authorities probe infection routes, a supporters' group has found.
A survey by Marriage for All Japan also showed they worry about whether they or their partner will be able to receive important medical information that hospitals provide to family members if one of them becomes infected with the pneumonia-causing virus.
(People march in Tokyo's Shibuya district during the Tokyo Rainbow Pride 2019 parade)
About 180 lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people among others had responded to the survey by Friday.
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A 34-year-old man who lives with his same-sex partner in Fukuoka, southwestern Japan, has chosen not to be open about his sexual orientation at his office. But he worries it may be revealed if he becomes infected with the virus as he would have to tell a public health center about his partner when asked about people he has had close contact with.
Even those who are open about their sexual orientation are worried about being excluded from important decision-making processes on treatment if their partner is hospitalized with COVID-19.
Kohei Inagaki, 28, and his partner have been recognized by the city of Saitama as partners equivalent to a legally married couple. But he said, "I may not be notified of my partner's health condition and may not be able to be involved in making decisions on treatment."
The same survey revealed that there is also a misperception among some LGBT couples that they are not eligible for government compensation for parents who take leave from work to look after children due to the school closures prompted by the virus outbreak.
Haru Ono, who is raising three children together with her partner, said the government has not clarified that the program targets all people with kids.
"There are many (LGBT) people who have given up on applying for it without knowing" it applies to them, too, said Ono, adding, "I want them to state that same-sex couples are also covered."
Gon Matsunaka, who heads a nonprofit organization for supporting LGBT people, warned that minorities who are often left out in normal circumstances tend to suffer even more during crises, and urged the government to help them.
"We understand that the government's top priority is protecting the lives of the people, but we want it to take a look at LGBT and other people who have serious problems regarding privacy and take measures so that they don't fall through the safety net," Matsunaka said.