Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida on Friday stepped up efforts to dispel intensifying criticism of his government's conventional stance toward sexual minorities by giving a female politician a new post in charge of advocating their rights.

During a meeting with members of groups supporting LGBT people, Kishida also apologized for remarks made by a former close aide that cast the spotlight on the issue in Japan, describing them as "extremely inappropriate."

Kishida said Masako Mori will take up the new role as she is also special advisor to the prime minister on women's empowerment. Mori, an upper house lawmaker from the conservative Liberal Democratic Party, headed by the premier, previously served as justice minister.

Issues surrounding sexual minorities have drawn attention in Japan after Kishida earlier this month sacked one of his executive secretaries, Masayoshi Arai, who said he would "not want to live next door" to an LGBT couple and does "not even want to look at them."

Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida (2nd from R) meets members of groups supporting LGBT people at his office in Tokyo on Feb. 17, 2023. (Kyodo)

Following the replacement of Arai, an elite bureaucrat, calls for enacting a law to facilitate understanding of the LGBT community have been growing as Japan is scheduled to host the Group of Seven summit in Kishida's home constituency of Hiroshima in May.

Japan remains the only country in the G-7 that does not legally recognize same-sex marriage or civil unions. Many LDP members have opposed the concept, while cherishing traditional family values such as the role of women in giving birth and raising children.

Conservatives in Japan have also voiced opposition to same-sex marriage, arguing that the system may influence the traditional structure of family life in the nation.

Although he has emphasized the importance of diversity and inclusive society, Kishida has adopted a cautious attitude toward recognizing the marital relationship, saying, "It is a matter that could change people's views on family, sense of values and society."

But the general public in Japan has apparently become more tolerant of same-sex marriage, with a recent Kyodo News survey showing 64 percent of respondents believe the system should be recognized, while 24.9 percent are not in favor.

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