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In Japan, there are currently no laws against homosexuality, but there is no legal recognition of same-sex relationships. Japanese culture and the major religions in Japan do not have a history of hostility towards LGBT individuals.[1]

Age of sexual consent legislation[edit]

Template:See also The age of consent in Japan is 13 years old under the Japanese national criminal law code. However, all municipalities and prefectures have their own particular laws such as Tokyo’s “Youth Protection Law” which prohibit adults from having sex with youths who are under 17 years old. As an added note, even though the age of consent in Japan can be 13, the age of majority is 20 for voting. The age of adulthood is considered 20 and driving age is 18. Japan’s “Prostitution Prevention Act”(1958) only prohibits actual sexual intercourse (or sex controlled by organized crime). That law defines as “true” sexual conduct between men and women, and not to “imitation” between same sex persons, so homosexual prostitution is not prohibited directly.[2]

There are no explicit religious prohibitions against homosexuality in the traditional religion of Japan, Shintoism, or in the imported religions of Buddhism or Confucianism. Sodomy was first criminalized in Japan in 1872, in the early Meiji era, to comply with the newly introduced beliefs of Western Culture and Qing legal codes. But this provision was repealed only seven years later by the Penal Code of 1880 in accordance with the Napoleonic Code.[3] Since then, Japan has had no laws against homosexuality.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.

Civil rights[edit]

As of 2000, sexual orientation is not protected by national civil rights laws, which means that LGBT Japanese have no legal recourse when they face such discrimination in such areas as employment, education, housing, health care, and banking.[4]

However most cases of discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation remain relatively uncommon in Japan. Gay, lesbian, and transgender teachers in all levels of education come out in their jobs with it rarely leading to any problems. Similarly, the Japan Self-Defense Forces, when being asked about their policy toward gays and lesbians following the U.S. debate during the Clinton presidency, answered that it was not an issue, and individuals within the forces indicated that as long as same-sex relations did not lead to fights or other trouble, there were few, if any, barriers to their inclusion in the armed services.[5]

The Japanese constitution promises equal rights and is interpreted to prohibit discrimination on all grounds. However, homosexual and transgender persons can experience physical, sexual and psychological violence at the hands of their opposite-sex or same-sex partners, but receive no protection from the law. Same-sex partners are excluded from the Law for the Prevention of Spousal Violence and the Protection of Victims and generally lack safe places where they can seek help and support. Japan is a party to the United Nations International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), which also comprehensively bans discrimination.[6]

While the Equal Opportunity Law has been revised several times over the years to address sex discrimination and harassment in the workplace, the government has refused to expand the law to address discrimination against gender or sexual identity.[7]

In 1990, 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, it is cited by the courts as a civil rights case, and the city government of Tokyo has since passed legislation banning discrimination in employment based on sexual identity.

Since the Fall of 2003, the Urban Renaissance Agency, the government agency that operates the government housing (公団住宅), began to allow same-sex couples to rent units the same way as heterosexual couples at any one of the over 300 properties that it operates. This opened the way for more such action, as the Osaka government in September 2005 opened the doors of its government housing to same-sex couples.[8]


Whilst representations of homosexuals in the Japanese media tend towards caricature (e.g. the actually straight Hard Gay), there are several examples of transsexual women and transvestites with popular celebrity status in Japan such as Matsuko Deluxe.

Transgender issues[edit]


In 2008, a law was passed allowing transgender people who have gone through sex reassignment surgery to change their legal gender.[9] On 24 February 2012, Hyogo Lawyers' Association pronounced a recommendation for a transsexual woman in male prison to be transferred into female institution.[10] According to this report, the transsexual woman was placed in male institution despite having undergone sex reassignment surgery before detention because of her legal status of sex and had her body checked by a male staff, her hair shaved and was refused any feminine treatment including the clothes.

Political support[edit]

LGBT-rights are rarely discussed or debated publicly and most political parties do not make any formal position, in favor of or in opposition, to LGBT-rights in their party's platform or manifesto.

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 adopt the recommendation.

In 2003 Aya Kamikawa became the first openly transgender politician to be elected to public office in Japan, Tokyo's municipal assembly. She initially ran as an Independent but expressed support for the now defunct Rainbow and Greens Party of Japan and later unsuccessfully ran for the national parliament as a member of the Democratic Party of Japan.

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

In 2011, Taiga Ishikawa became the first openly gay candidate elected to office in Japan, specifically as the representative for the local assembly for Toshima Ward [1]. The thirty-six-year-old, gay man publicly came out in his book, "Where Is My Boyfriend" (2002) and started a non-profit organization that sponsors social events for gay men in Japan.


Template:Main Article 24 of the Japanese constitution states that "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."

As a result, articles 731-737 of the Japanese Civil Code restrict marriage to opposite-sex unions. Same-sex couples are not able to marry, and same-sex couples are not granted rights derived from marriage. Also same-sex marriages performed abroad are not legally recognized in Japan and bi-national same-sex couples cannot obtain a visa for the foreign partner based on their relationship.[11]

As of March 2009, Japan is set to allow Japanese nationals to marry same-sex partners in countries where same-sex marriage is legal. The justice ministry has instructed local authorities to issue key certificates—which states a person is single and of legal age— to individuals seeking to enter same sex marriages in areas that legally allow it.

Though the marriage are not necessarily legally recognized within Japan, allowing its citizens to marry same-sex partners overseas is seen by some as a first step toward eventual legalization of gay marriage in Japan.[12]

See also[edit]