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Japan Passes Watered-Down LGBTQ Bill Opposed by Rights Groups and Conservatives

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Japan’s upper house of parliament passed a bill to promote understanding of LGBTQ issues but stops short of protecting any specific rights or providing a blanket barring of discrimination.

With the vote Friday, the bill made its way through both houses of parliament and will become law. It was approved after conservative lawmakers watered down some of its terms regarding minimal considerations for sexual and gender minorities and removed others.

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The bill had been shelved for years but was revived as the government sought to save face after an aide to Prime Minister Fumio Kishida made discriminatory remarks in an off-record conversation with reporters earlier this year.

“This is the exact opposite of the bill we had sought,” the Japan Alliance for LGBT Legislation said in a statement on its website, warning it would lead to a “dark age” for the LGBTQ community.

The law falls short of providing any specific rights, instead saying that “unfair” discrimination should not be allowed. The final version also removed a reference to encouraging the efforts of civil organizations to promote understanding, and added a condition that consideration should be paid to “all citizens being able to lead their lives without concern.”

Japan is the only member of the Group of Seven wealthy democracies not to recognize same-sex unions or provide any protection for discrimination against sexual and gender minorities. Business lobbies have said the situation hampers their efforts to recruit global talent.

It still faced opposition from some lawmakers in the ruling Liberal Democratic Party. Broadcaster FNN reported that at least one LDP lawmaker was absent and another spent 10 minutes in the restrooms when the bill was voted through the lower house.

—With assistance from Takashi Hirokawa.

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