Boris Dittrich, a former Dutch parliamentarian and an advocacy director for the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) program of a global human rights group, said that Japan needs to make more efforts to promote the rights of sexual minorities. The 57-year-old LGBT director for U.S.-based Human Rights Watch played a major role in making same-sex marriages legal in the Netherlands in 2001, the first country in the world to do so.
“We would love to see Japan and the Japanese government become more vocal about LGBT rights, because Japan is already in a core group of LGBT-friendly countries,” Dittrich said in a recent interview, visiting Japan during “Tokyo Rainbow Week”, a series of events that encourage and support the sexual minority community in the country. The events were held during Japan’s Golden Week holidays, in late April to early May. Dittrich said that there is much hope for LGBT visibility and equality in the country, acknowledging that Tokyo has backed the push for LGBT rights at the United Nations, the government also co-sponsoring programs to protect LGBT people from abuse and discrimination. The openly gay advocacy director recalled that when he was in japan in 2009, he said that LGBT people in Japan were discussing measures to protect themselves against discrimination, including in the workplace, to prevent companies from firing them just because of their sexual orientation. “But now in 2013, there are many LGBT people who come to me and say ‘We would like to see marriage equality also in Japan’,” he said. That, he said, is a sign of improvement and progress. “I believe that if they (LGBT people and advocacy groups) organize very well and if they make connections to politicians in Japan, you know one day it might start,” he added. “It might take years, but the start is happening now,” he added.
Dittrich, who is married to a man, referenced the story of a Japanese lesbian couple who had a wedding ceremony at DisneySea in March, as well as IBM Corp. supporting a gay couple who are going to have a similar ceremony in November. Dittrich said that with these situations, legal same-sex marriage in Japan is not something “far away.” As of today, there are 14 countries that have legalized, or are set to legalize, same-sex marriage – with the inclusion of Uruguay, New Zealand and France. The U.S. Supreme Court is also scheduled to hand down a ruling on gay marriage sometime in June.