In a step to protect the LGBTQ community, Mie became the first prefecture in Japan to ban people from outing others. On Wednesday, June 3, Governor Eikei Suzuki announced that under a new ordinance, it is now illegal to force someone to reveal their gender identity and sexual orientation.
Suzuki said that this ordinance was influenced by the second wave of coronavirus cases in South Korea, which was linked to the LGBTQ community after a COVID-19 patient was found to have visited gay bars. Many slammed the media for sensationalising reports. As part of their contact tracing process, the South Korean government also initially urged those who visited the bars to come forward, forcing them to come out. Through this new ordinance, Suzuki hopes to eliminate discrimination against LGBTQ people in their region, should they be affected by the coronavirus as well, Tokyo Shimbun reported.
Suzuki said that they are still discussing the penalties for violators.
Japan has been criticised for lagging behind when it comes to protecting LGBTQ rights. It has not legalised same-sex marriage and has no national law against discrimination in employment and housing based on sexual orientation or gender identity.
Public outings are a problem in Japan, where many LGBTQ people say that their identities were revealed without their consent. In August 2015, a student from Hitotsubashi University took his own life after being outed by classmates for being gay.
According to a survey conducted by Dentsu Diversity Lab in 2018, 54.5 percent of 60,000 individuals aged 20-59 said that there were no sexual diversity support systems in their workplace. Only 23.5 percent said that they understand LGBTQ issues.
However, Japan has been making efforts to protect the LGBTQ community. In 2018, Tokyo passed a law banning LGBTQ discrimination, in preparation for the now-postponed 2020 Tokyo Olympics. In 2017, Japan updated its National Bullying Prevention Policy and introduced new policies that protect students who are part of sexual and gender minorities.
Japanese netizens are now praising Mie Prefecture’s efforts to protect the LGBTQ community.
“I am for the Mie Prefecture’s New Law. I hope more prefectures take this into account in their laws too. Coming out is not something that should be forced. People should always feel free to talk, but also free to hide it if they feel uncomfortable.”
“This is simply amazing. It is great to see local governments implementing specific laws that save people’s lives.”
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This article originally appeared on VICE ASIA.