Shintaro Ishihara

The New York-based Human Rights Watch has demanded that the governor of Tokyo, Shintaro Ishihara, immediately retract his recent statements denigrating lesbians and gay men.

Ishihara made his first comments on December 3, discussing a revision to Tokyo metropolitan law aimed at regulating the manga and anime industries, which went on to pass on December 15.

“[The bill] is not just about the kids,” he said. “We have got homosexuals casually appearing even on television. Japan has become far too untamed.”

In response to a journalist’s question about his earlier statement, Ishihara said, “I think homosexuals have something missing from them somehow. It may be something genetic. I feel sorry for them being a minority.”

He spoke of watching a gay parade in San Francisco: “I saw a parade made up of gays, and I really felt sorry for them. There were pairs of men and women, but it certainly did feel like they were deficient somehow.” These statements were reported in several newspapers as well as by online media.

“Although Japan does not criminalise homosexual conduct, lesbians, gay men, and transgendered people face everyday discrimination and humiliation from their families, in the workplace, and in other social and professional settings,” said Dipika Nath, lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) rights researcher at Human Rights Watch.

“Governor Ishihara’s comments increase the stigma against lesbian and gay people and can promote discrimination against an already marginalised group,” added Nath.

The Japanese constitution promises equal rights and is interpreted to prohibit discrimination on all grounds. However, existing legislation, such as article 23(1) of the Public Housing Law, effectively bars same-sex couples’ access to public housing.

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