Japan's ruling Liberal Democratic Party will accelerate discussion on a bill that would promote understanding of sexual minorities, a senior lawmaker said Sunday, amid growing criticism of the government's conventional stance on LGBT people.
Koichi Hagiuda, the policy chief of the LDP, said in a TV program that he will make efforts to "forge a consensus" on the matter within the party, around three months before Japan hosts the Group of Seven summit in Hiroshima in May.
Japan remains the only G-7 country not to legally recognize same-sex marriage or civil unions, as many members of the conservative LDP, headed by Prime Minister Fumio Kishida, have opposed the concept, cherishing traditional family values.
Kishida, who has described himself as a dovish moderate, has also adopted a cautious attitude toward recognizing same-sex marriage in Japan.
In the run-up of the summit, concerns are mounting among government officials that Japan will be lambasted by other G-7 nations for its lack of a legal framework to protect the human rights and dignity of LGBT people, sources close to Kishida said.
Issues surrounding sexual minorities in Japan have come under the spotlight after Kishida sacked Masayoshi Arai, one of his executive secretaries, earlier this month.
Arai, an elite bureaucrat, said during an off-the-record conversation with reporters one day before he was replaced that he would "not want to live next door" to an LGBT couple and that he does "not even want to look at them."
Hagiuda, a key member of a conservative intraparty group within the LDP, said Sunday, "Unfair discrimination and prejudice must not be allowed." The faction he belongs to is the largest in the party.
Japanese conservatives, who typically put emphasis on the country's traditions such as the role of women in giving birth and raising children, are opposed to same-sex marriage, arguing that the system may have an impact on the structure of family life.
Kishida, a veteran lawmaker representing a constituency in Hiroshima, has been eager to pitch his vision of a world without nuclear weapons at the scheduled G-7 summit in the western Japan city that was devastated by a U.S. atomic bomb in August 1945.
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