Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida has condemned the remarks made by one of his own bureaucrats about the LGBTQ+ community. Masayoshi Arai, who has worked for the Prime Minister since October, was quoted in local media as saying that he would not want to live near same-sex couples and that he did not even want to look at them. These comments have caused an uproar in Japan, where the LGBTQ+ community continues to fight for their rights and recognition.
In response to the comments, Kishida issued a statement, saying that Arai’s comments were “outrageous” and “completely incompatible” with the administration’s policies. The Prime Minister went on to say that he may dismiss Arai, who later apologized for his remarks, calling them “misleading.”
Arai’s comments are particularly embarrassing for Kishida, who is set to host leaders from the Group of Seven nations in May. Unlike Japan, which has been ruled by the conservative Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) for most of the past seven decades, the rest of the G7 nations allow for either same-sex marriage or civil unions.
The controversy surrounding Arai’s remarks also comes at a time when public support for the Prime Minister is already at a low. According to recent opinion polls, his public support has halved to around 30% following a series of resignations by senior officials, including Mio Sugita, an internal affairs and communications vice minister, who quit in December over comments about LGBT people and Japan’s indigenous Ainu community.
Despite the resistance from some quarters, there is a growing movement in Japan for legal recognition of same-sex unions. In a survey published by public broadcaster NHK in July 2021, 57% of 1,508 respondents said they supported the legal recognition of same-sex unions. In November, a Tokyo court upheld a ban on same-sex marriage, but also declared that the lack of legal protection for same-sex families violated their human rights.
Because same-sex couples are not allowed to marry in Japan, they are denied important rights such as inheritance and parental rights over each other’s children. The Prime Minister’s statement in support of the LGBTQ+ community is a step in the right direction, and further underscores the need for greater protections and recognition for this marginalized group in Japan.