Japan's ruling bloc on Thursday submitted a bill to parliament aimed at introducing legislation to promote a better understanding of the LGBT community, a day before the country hosts the Group of Seven summit in Hiroshima.
Prime Minister Fumio Kishida, who heads the ruling Liberal Democratic Party, apparently wants to showcase progress on the issue to his G-7 peers, with the country under mounting pressure to do more to protect the rights of the community. Japan has been lagging behind other G-7 members on the issue.
The LDP seeks to pass the bill by the end of the ongoing Diet session through June 21, Yoshitaka Shindo, executive acting chairman of the party's Policy Research Council, told reporters after its submission.
Kishida's stance on sexual minorities has come under fresh scrutiny since his then close aide told reporters in February that he would "not want to live next door" to an LGBT couple and that he does "not even want to look at" LGBT people. The aide was swiftly sacked.
The submission by the LDP and junior coalition partner Komeito follows months of deliberations over its phrasing, with deep-rooted opposition among conservative LDP members who say they cherish traditional family values, such as the role of women in giving birth and raising children.
In consideration of some LDP lawmakers who are cautious of the legislation, expressions in the bill have been watered down from a version agreed upon with opposition parties in May 2021. The LDP eventually did not submit that bill due to persistent opposition within the party.
Among the revisions, the bill now says "there should not be unfair discrimination" instead of "discrimination is unacceptable."
While the LDP is seeking to secure support for the bill from other parties, the main opposition Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan has said it has been "changed for the worse."
Japan is the only G-7 country not to have instituted laws prohibiting discrimination against sexual minorities and legalizing same-sex marriage or civil unions.
A survey by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development shows Japan ranked 34th out of 35 countries in terms of LGBT inclusion legislation in 2019, down from 22nd in 1999.
In a recent video compilation of messages, 15 diplomatic missions in Japan, including those of the United States, Europe and Australia, called on the Japanese government to take concrete action toward protecting LGBT rights ahead of the G-7 summit.