LGBT rights in Japan

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LGBT rights in Japan
Same-sex sexual activity legal? Legal
Gender identity/expression Change of legal sex allowed since 2008, following sex reassignment surgery
Recognition of
No recognition of same-sex relationships
Military service Yes
Discrimination protections Sexual orientation protected in some cities, though not federally[1]

Homosexuality in Japan is legal. There are currently no laws against homosexuality. However, there is no legal recognition of same-sex relationships.

Age of sexual consent legislation

There are no explicit religious prohibitions against homosexuality in the traditional religions of Japan: Shintoism, Buddhism, or Confucianism. Sodomy was first criminalized in Japan in 1873, in the early Meiji era, to comply with the newly-introduced beliefs of Western Culture. But this provision was repealed only seven years later by the Penal Code of 1880.[2] Since then, Japan has had no laws against homosexuality. Thus, sex among consenting adults, in private, regardless of sexual orientation and/or gender, is legal under Japanese law.


Prostitution is illegal under the 1958 "Prostitution Prevention Act" under the National Criminal Code. However, since homosexuality is not seen as sexual conduct in the National criminal code but rather define it as "seikou-ruiji-kōi" (similar to sexual conduct), homosexual prostitution is often dealt with under other local prefecture laws.


Japanese civil rights laws do not include protection from discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity. However, in 1997 the group OCCUR (Japan Association for the Lesbian and Gay Movement) won a court case against a Tokyo government policy that barred gay and lesbian youth from using the "Metropolitan House for Youth." While the court ruling does not seem to have extended to other areas of government sponsored discrimination, the city government of Tokyo has since passed legislation banning discrimination in employment based on sexual identity.

In 2004 Kazuhito Tadano, a Japanese baseball pitcher, joined the American Cleveland Indians. His appearance in a gay pornographic film, along with other team members, when he was a member of the Rikkyo University baseball team led to him being avoided in the draft. He later stated that his appearance in the film was exclusively for money and not because of his sexual orientation. After 4 years in Major League Baseball, he was released from Sacramento River Cats. On 2007 draft, he was drafted by Hokkaido Nippon-Ham Fighters as the first round pick.

Transgender issues

In 2008, a law was passed allowing transgender people who have gone through gender reassignment surgery to change their legal gender.[3]

Political support

The major Japanese political parties do not express much public support for LGBT rights issues. In 1994 the then Foreign Minister Koji Kakizawa stated in Shokun! magazine that he was opposed to his party simply calling themselves the Liberals, because it might lead people to believe that they supported homosexuals.

Both the former ruling Liberal Democrats and Komei pledge to oppose all discrimination that women face, but do not address the issue of sexual orientation. Likewise, the ruling party, the Democratic Party of Japan only offers a broad endorsement of equal opportunity. Yet, even the minor political parties have been reluctant to publicly endorse LGBT rights.[4]

In 2001 The Council for Human Rights Promotion, under the Ministry of Justice, recommended that sexual orientation be included in the nation's civil rights code, but the Diet has refused to take action.

In 2003 Aya Kamikawa became the first openly transgender politician to be elected to public office in Japan, Tokyo's municipal assembly.

In 2005 Kanako Otsuji, from the Osaka Prefectural Assembly, became the first gay politician to formally come out at the Tokyo Gay Pride Festival.


The Japanese Department of Registration (Houmushou, 法務省) recently received the order to confirm that couples applying for marriage licenses are of different sexes, and if they are not, to decline the application. Same-sex marriages, civil unions and domestic partnerships performed in other jurisdictions have no legal standing in Japan.

However, in March 2009 Japan Today reported that the Justice Ministry plans to enable Japanese nationals to marry same-sex partners who have citizenship in countries where gay marriage is legally approved, ministry sources said. The ministry will issue certificates necessary for such marriage of Japanese citizens and foreigners, the sources said, adding the ministry will soon convey the decision to its legal affairs bureaus across the nation, the sources said. This is seen by many as a first step toward eventual legalization of gay marriage in Japan.[5]

See also



*Some information provided in whole or in part by