Japan LGBT Laws

Age of Consent Legislation/Cases/References
1. National

The age of consent for male homosexual sex is 13 years [R1].

R1 Sydney Star Observer: “The Age of Consent and Gay Men in New South Wales” 28 MAR 02 page 7
Assisted Reproduction, Artificial Insemination, IVF, Surrogacy Legislation/Cases/References
1. Court & Tribunals

On 31 October 2012, Judge Yoshiki Matsutani in the Tokyo Family Court rejected a suit filed by a man with gender identity disorder, who has legally changed his gender designation, seeking an order to have his son born by artificial insemination acknowledged as his legitimate child., It was the first judicial decision in Japan involving the family registry of a child born to a man who has changed his gender designation due to GID [R1.1].

R1.1 The Mainichi: Tokyo court rejects family registry suit by man with GID 03 NOV 12
Asylum, Immigration, Refugees Legislation/Cases/References
1. Asylum, Refugees

1. National

On 23 March 2019, it was reported that Japan has shelved plans to deport a gay Taiwanese man, now in his 40s, who has lived in the country for about 25 years with his Japanese partner, now in his 50s. The man was arrested in 2016 for overstaying a three-month visa from the early 1990s and was ordered to be deported [R1.1].

2. Courts & Tribunals

On 11 April 2004, the Tokyo District Court held that an Iranian man’s sexual orientation was not grounds enough to grant refugee status [R2.3].

Presiding judge Yosuke Ichimura said, “In Iran, he has been concealing his homosexuality. Therefore, the possibility is slight that he would be persecuted at home” [R2.3].

The case was heard on appeal after his application was rejected by the Justice Ministry [R2.2].

On 18 February 2003, the U.S.-based Iranian human rights activist Goudarz Eghtedari told the Tokyo District Court that the plaintiff, an Iranian homosexual, would likely face capital punishment if the Justice Ministry carried out its order to deport him to Iran [R2.1].

R1.1 TheNation: Japan shelves deportation for Taiwanese man in same-sex relationship 23 MAR 19
R2.3 365gay.com: Japan Refuses Sanctuary To Fleeing Gay 12 APR 04
R2.2 Daily Yomiuri: Rights Activist Testifies on Iranian Gay Asylum-seeker 26 FEB 03
R2.1 Daily Yomiuri: Rights Activist Testifies on Iranian Gay Asylum-seeker 26 FEB 03
Civil Unions, Partners: Domestic, Registered Legislation/Cases/References
1. Cities & Towns

On 24 August 2018, it was reported that the City of Chiba plans to issue certificates recognizing same-sex and common-law couples starting in April 2019. Preliminary requirements to apply: couples must be unmarried, must not be blood relatives, and must be residents of the city or have plans to move there in the near future [R1.13].

On 05 July 2018, it was reported that the City of Osaka had announced that it will be legally recognising same-sex couples as of 09 July 2018. Same-sex couples who reside in the city, or planning to move to Osaka in the near future, will be able to register at their local office. All you need for the application is a copy of your residence certificate (or documents which prove that you’re moving to Osaka), proof of current marital status (which states that you’re single), and an official form of ID [R1.12].

On 14 February 2018, the southwestern Japanese City of Fukuoka reportedly announced it will start recognizing partnerships of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender couples in April, becoming the seventh municipality to do so despite such a system not existing at national level [R1.11].

On 21 March 2017, the City of Sapporo municipal government announced LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) unions will begin to be recognised starting in June [R1.10].

On 22 December 2016, it was reported that the Sapporo City would recognize same-sex partnerships as equivalent to marriage to address discrimination against sexual minorities, with plans to draw up guidelines by next March with an eye to launching the certification of gay couples by the end of March 2018 [R1.9].

On 08 July 2016, Naha City reportedly introduced a new system officially recognizing same-sex partners who are aged 20 or older and would begin issuing partnership certificates to same-sex couples [R1.8].

On 10 June 2016, it was reported that the City of Takarazuka in Hyogo Prefecture, had enacted legislation enabling same-sex couples aged 20 or older to obtain official partnership certificates signed by the Mayor that allow them access to the same public services as married couples [R1.7].

On 26 December 2015, it was reported that the City of Iga in Mie Prefecture announced plans to start issuing certificates recognising same-sex partnerships as being equivalent to marriage from next April onwards. The City of Takarazuka, meanwhile, has said it will start issuing papers authenticating partnership oaths by same-sex couples by summer 2016 [R1.6].

On 23 October 2015, the Wall Street Journal reported that beginning next week, Shibua Ward would start accepting applications for largely symbolic same-sex partnership certificates. Same-sex couples must both reside in Shibuya, be at least 20 years old, unrelated, have no spouses or other same-sex partners and provide notarized documents proving their relationship. Issuance will begin 05 November. Certificates must be surrendered upon either partner leaving the ward or on dissolution of the partnership [R1.5].

On 02 October 2015, details of Shibuya ward’s ‘partnership certificates’ were presented to the assembly’s general affairs committee. To be eligible, couples must be aged 20 or older, living in the ward and present two types of notarial deeds to show they are each other’s guardians and in a trusting relationship. It will take around a week to issue a certificate, for a nominal fee of ¥300 ($2.50). Notorial deeds could cost about ¥80,000 ($665.00) so, gay couples who cannot be each other’s guardian for the time being will be allowed to submit only one type of notarial deed. If a relationship ends, the certificate must be returned to the ward [R1.4].

On 29 July 2015, Tokyo’s Setagaya Ward announced that it will start issuing certificates as early as November recognising same-sex couples aged 20 or older who pledge to be in a partnership, one of whom must be a Setagaya resident or have a plan to move to the ward [R1.3].

On 31 March 2015, the Tokyo Shibuya ward voted to recognize same-sex partnerships. With the statute to take effect on 01 April the Shibuya ward will issue paperwork recognizing same-sex partnerships, based on a number of conditions. This recognition should allow couples to rent apartments and visit each other in hospital [R1.2].

On 12 February 2015, Tokyo’s Shibuya Ward chief Toshitake Kuwahara revealed a plan to issue its own certificates to same-sex couples and recognize them as partners that are “equivalent” to those that are married under the law. If the draft statute passes, the local government would be the first to issue such documentation in the country [R1.1].

R1.13 JapanTimes: City of Chiba to issue partnership certificates to same-sex and common-law couples 24 AUG 18
R1.12 TimeOut: Osaka City to recognise same-sex partnership from July 9 05 JUL 18
R1.11 KyodoNews: Japan’s Fukuoka city to recognize LGBT couples from April 14 FEB 18
R1.10 LatinAmericanHeraldTribune: Major Japanese City to Recognize Same-Sex Civil Unions 22 MAR 17
R1.9 TheJapanTimes: Sapporo to join other cities in recognizing same-sex partnerships as marriages 22 DEC 16
R1.8 RyukyuShimbo: Naha recognizes same-sex partnerships 08 JUL 16
R1.7 Fridae: Fourth Japanese city recognises same-sex partnerships 10 JUN 16
R1.6 PinkNews: Another Japanese city to recognise same-sex relationships 26 DEC 15
R1.5 TheWallStreetJournal: Tokyo Ward to Start Issuing Same-Sex Partnership Certificates 23 OCT 15
R1.4 TheAsahiShimbun: Shibuya Ward to begin accepting applications for ‘same-sex partnership certificates 03 OCT 15
R1.3 TheJapanTimes: Another ward in Tokyo to recognize same-sex couples 29 JUL 15
R1.2 ReutersUS: In Japan first, Tokyo district recognizes same-sex partnerships 31 MAR 15
R1.1 JapanRealtime: Tokyo’s Shibuya Ward to Issue Same-Sex Partner Certificates 12 FEB 15
Discrimination Legislation/Cases/References
1. National

There are no GLBT anti-discrimination laws in Japan [R1.1].

In 2001, the Council for Human Rights Promotion of the Japanese Justice Ministry explicitly included discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation within the mandate of the proposed national human rights commission, to be founded in two of three years [R1.2].

2. Cities & Towns

On 05 October 2018, it was reported that the Tokyo Metropolitan Government passed a law banning discrimination against the LGBTQ community ahead of hosting the 2020 Summer Olympics. The law reads ”the Tokyo Metropolitan Government, citizens, and enterprises may not unduly discriminate on the basis of gender identity or sexual orientation” [R2.2].

On 21 November 2000, the Tokyo Metropolitan Government finally included sexual orientation as a category protected from discrimination within its new human rights guidelines [R2.1].

3. Regions

In 2000, there were two regional governments that have the human rights guidelines which mention lesbian and gay rights. They were Tokyo and Ehime (in the south west district of Japan) [R2.1].

4. Courts & Tribunals

In 2001, the High Court ruled that when a governmental agency “performs its duties, it is obligated to pay careful attention to the situation of homosexuals as a minority and to guarantee that their rights and interests be upheld. Indifference and ignorance regarding homosexuality are inexcusable on the part of persons in the position of wielding governmental authority” [R4.1].

In September 1997, the Tokyo High Court rejected the appeal of the Tokyo Metropolitan Government (TMP) against the Japan Association for the Lesbian and Gay Movement (OCCUR), reaffirming the 1994 decision of the District Court that Tokyo’s refusal to allow OCCUR members to use its Houses for Youth was illegal and discriminatory [R4.2].

R1.1 Masaki Inaba, Program Director for Advocacy, Japan Association for the Lesbian and Gay Movement (OCCUR) 28 MAY 01
R1.2 IGLHRC Emergency Response Network: Good News from Japan 14 JUN 01
R2.2 NewNowNext 05 October 2018 | Jeff Taylor Tokyo Passes Law Banning LGBTQ Discrimination 05 OCT 18
R2.1 GayLawNet: Victory In Japan 12 DEC 00
PlanetOut: Tokyo Includes Gays in Rights 21 NOV 00
R4.1 IGLHRC: Tokyo’s High Court Rules Against Gay Discrimination 14 JUN 01
R4.2 Japan Association for the Lesbian and Gay Movement: Victory at the Tokyo High Court 16 SEP 97
Gender Identity, Intersex,
Transgender, Transexual
See also: [PARENTING]
1. National

In 2004, Japan’s transgendered were allowed to put their corrected sex and use their new names on official documents under a law passed by the House of Representatives [R1.1].

To change their documentation TGs will have to be diagnosed by at least two doctors as “having a different psychological makeup from their biological sex” and a desire to live as the opposite gender both physically and socially. Applicants must be at least 20 years old, unmarried, have no children, and no longer have functioning reproductive organs as a result of undergoing gender reassignment surgery. They must then go to family court for final approval [R1.2].

Since 1998, sex change operations have been legal in Japan [R1.3], however up until now, changing a person’s gender on the records at the local government office has been problematic as local registrars were able to decide whether changes could be made [R1.4].

2. Courts & Tribunals

On 23 January 2019, the Supreme Court reportedly ruled 4-0 that a law effectively forcing people with gender identity disorder who want to officially register a change in their sex to undergo surgery is ”currently constitutional”. The case was brought by Takakito Usui, a 45-year-old from the village of Shinjo in Okayama Prefecture, who wished to register as a male without undergoing surgery [R2.3].

On 06 February 2017, the Tsuyama branch of the Okayama Family Court reportedly denied the application of F2M transgender Takakito Usui seeking to have his sex changed legally without undergoing sterilization, ruling that the sterilization requirement for people who are considered to suffer from ”gender identity disorder” that took effect in 2004 ”is not unreasonable to the extent of violating the Constitution”. An appeal was lodged against the decision at the Okayama branch of the Hiroshima High Court [R2.2].

In 2003, the Tokyo Family Court dismissed a request filed by a transsexual in 2001 to allow him to alter his gender in the country’s family register [R2.1].

R1.1 ILGA: State-Sponsored Homophobia PDF 382.87kn, 14 MAY 08
R1.2 Brother Sister: Japan Recognizes Rights Of Transgendered 11 JUL 03
R1.3 Brother Sister: Sex Change Legal in Japan 28 MAY 98
Kyodo: First Sex-Change Operation in Japan Since 1969 20 OCT 98
R1.4 Melbourne Community Voice: Trannies Face Legal Fight 01 JUN 01
R2.3 JapanTimes: Supreme Court rules surgery to change legal sex identity is ‘currently constitutional’ 25 JAN 19
R2.2 TheAsahiShimbun: Transgender man appeals ruling that calls for sterilization 08 FEB 17
R2.1 Gay.com UK: Transsexual Can’t Alter Birth Data 24 JAN 03
Hate Crimes Legislation/Cases/References
1. National

On 22 May 2016, the Diet passed an anti-hate speech law that condemns unjustly discriminatory language as ”unforgivable”, but doesn’t legally ban hate speech and sets no penalty. The law is only intended to cover people of overseas origin and their descendants ”who live legally in Japan” [R1.1].

2. Courts & Tribunals

On 02 June 2016, Judge Hidechika Hashimoto in the Kawasaki branch of the Yokohama District Court in Kanagawa Prefecture issued a first-ever provisional injunction preventing an anti-Korean activist from holding a rally near the premises of the Seikyusha, a group that supports ethnic Korean people [R2.1].

R1.1 TheJapanTimes: Diet passes Japan’s first law to curb hate speech 24 MAY 16
Health, Medical Legislation/Cases/References
1. Courts & Tribunals

On 23 January 2019, the Supreme Court reportedly ruled 4-0 that a law effectively forcing people with gender identity disorder who want to officially register a change in their sex to undergo surgery is ”currently constitutional”. The case was brought by Takakito Usui, a 45-year-old from the village of Shinjo in Okayama Prefecture, who wished to register as a male without undergoing surgery [R1.1].

R1.1 JapanTimes: Supreme Court rules surgery to change legal sex identity is ‘currently constitutional’ 25 JAN 19
Homosexuality, Sodomy Legislation/Cases/References
1. National

Since 1882, consensual sex between same-sex couples has been lawful in Japan [R1.1].

R1.1 ILGA: State-Sponsored Homophobia PDF 382.87kn, 14 MAY 08
Marriage Legislation/Cases/References
1. National

The Constitution provides:
Article 24. Marriage shall be based only on the mutual consent of both sexes and it shall be maintained through mutual cooperation with the equal rights of husband and wife as a basis.With regard to choice of spouse, property rights, inheritance, choice of domicile, divorce and other matters pertaining to marriage and the family, laws shall be enacted from the standpoint of individual dignity and the essential equality of the sexes [R1.3].

On 09 January 2016, Associate Professor Sota Kimura at Tokyo Metropolitan University noted that Article 24 of the Constitution, defines marriage as a legally binding union between two people who mutually agree to enter into that union. Although English translations of the Constitution typically describe marriage as involving “both sexes”, the word ryōsei can also be interpreted to mean “two parties” [R1.2].

On 27 March 2009, it was reported that Japanese nationals could wed their same-sex foreign partners in countries where same-sex marriage is permitted. The justice ministry instructed local authorities to issue documents pertaining to marriage to gay couples planning to wed abroad [R1.1].

2. Prefectures

In December 1998, a male couple were “wed” last month at a Shinto shrine in Kawasaki, Kanagawa Prefecture, apparently becoming the first gay pair for whom a marriage-style ceremony took place at a shrine [R2.1].

3. Courts & Tribunals

On 14 February 2019, thirteen same-sex couples demanding marriage equality reportedly filed lawsuits against the government in district courts across Japan, arguing that its refusal to allow them to marry is unconstitutional and discriminatory [R3.1].

R1.3 Kantei.go.jp: TheConstitutionofJapan 03 MAY 47
R1.2 TheJapanTimes: Different-names ruling leaves door open to possibility of same-sex marriages 09 JAN 15
R1.1 PinkNews.co.uk: Japan gives citizens the green light for gay marriage abroad 27 MAR 09
R2.1 Kyodo News Summary: Gay Male Couple First Same-sex Pair to Wed at Shinto 20 JAN 99 (Accessed 30 DEC 18)
R3.1 JapanToday: 13 same-sex couples file suits for marriage equality in Japan 14 FEB 19
Military Legislation/Cases/References
1. National

Japan reportedly does not consider the sexual orientation of recruits or of military personnel on active duty [R11.].

R1.1 Reuters: Gays No threat to Australia Military – U.S. Study 20 OCT 00
Parenting, Adoption, Fostering Legislation/Cases/References
1. National

In January 2010, it was reported that a married trans man whose wife gave birth to a son using his brother’s sperm was informed by officials that the child is classed as illegitimate, despite a 2004 law which allows people to be legally recognised in their acquired gender [R1.1].

See also: Courts & Tribunals below at [R2.2].

2. Cities & Towns

On 05 April 2017, the Osaka city government announced it had recognized two men in their 40s and 30s respectively as foster parents. They had been living with a teenage boy since February and were granted official foster parent status [R2.1].

3. Court & Tribunals

On 02 April 2014, the Osaka Family Court was reported to have approved the adoption of a 3-year-old boy by a woman in her 30s who changed her sex from male due to gender identity disorder (GID) and subsequently married a man. It is perhaps the first case in Japan in which a woman who has changed her gender has been approved as a legal mother through an adoption program [R3.4].

On 10 December 2013, three of the five judges of the Supreme Court’s Third Petty Bench upheld the petition of a female-to-male transgender man to be recorded on the official family registry as the father of a boy born to his wife after the use of semen from a donor [R3.3].

On 13 September 2013, Judge Keiko Kuboi in the Osaka Family Court dismissed an application from a 31-year-old transsexual man for the court to confirm that a 1-year-old boy his wife had using a third person’s sperm is his legitimate child [R3.2].

On 31 October 2012, Judge Yoshiki Matsutani in the Tokyo Family Court rejected a suit filed by a man with gender identity disorder, who had legally changed his gender designation, seeking an order to have his son born by artificial insemination acknowledged as his legitimate child. It was the first judicial decision in Japan involving the family registry of a child born to a man who has changed his gender designation due to GID [R3.1].

R1.1 PinkNews.co.uk: Japanese trans man told that son is illegitimate 12 JAN 10
R2.1 GayStarNews: Osaka men become first gay couple to foster a child in Japan 06 APR 17
R3.4 TheJapanTimes: Court OKs adoption by transsexual 02 APR 14
R3.3 The Japan News: Transgender man recognized as father 12 DEC 13
R3.2 The Japan News: Transgender man denied legal claims to his son 14 SEP 13
R3.1 The Mainichi: Tokyo court rejects family registry suit by man with GID 03 NOV 12
Violence: Bullying, Domestic Violence, Harassment, Vilification Legislation/Cases/References
1. National

On 14 March 2017, the Basic Policy for the Prevention of Bullying was revised. The updated national policy aims to protect sexual and gender minority students saying schools should prevent bullying of students based on their sexual orientation or gender identity by ”promot[ing] proper understanding of teachers on … sexual orientation/gender identity as well as mak[ing] sure to inform on the school’s necessary measures regarding this matter” [R1.3].

On 28 June 2016, the labor ministry was reported to have decided to name discrimination against sexual minorities as a form of harassment in guidelines for employers following a ministry Labor Policy Council committee agreeing that the revision should be made to the guidelines, which are to be implemented in January [R1.2].

On 24 December 2013, the Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare was reported to revised an act on gender employment equality, making same-sex sexual harassment in the workplace unlawful [R1.1].

R1.3 fridae: Revised Anti-Bullying Policy in Japan to Protect LGBT students 27 MAR 17
R1.2 TheJapanTimes: Japan to define workplace LGBT discrimination as sexual harassment 28 JUN 16
R1.1 GayStarNews: Japan revises law to protect against same-sex sexual harassment 25 DEC 13