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The Asahi Shimbun/2018/7/11 14:10

Japan still has long way to go in embracing sexual diversity

Ochanomizu University, a state-run college for women in Tokyo's Bunkyo Ward, announced July 10 that it will open its doors in fiscal 2020 to transgender women students who are legally male.
Other universities, including Japan Women's University, are also considering following suit. This is a significant move toward recognizing diversity in sexual orientation and guaranteeing broader educational opportunities to all students.
In a directive issued in 2015 to elementary, junior and senior high schools around the nation, the education ministry urged "thoughtful handling" of children who identify as sexual minorities.
When this matter became a topic of discussion in school textbooks, visible changes began to take place. For instance, a municipal junior high school in Kashiwa, Chiba Prefecture, switched to a gender-free school uniform.
It is only natural for transgender women to wish to be educated as women. By opening their doors to them, women's universities are doing what is required in this day and age.
Of course, just admitting transgender women students won't be enough. The students will need all sorts of support in their daily lives, such as when attending lectures, playing sports and job-hunting.
We hope the universities will listen to what the students have to say and make all necessary preparations.
A proposal to guarantee the rights of sexual minorities, presented last year by a committee of the Science Council of Japan, asked educational organizations to give due consideration to the use of aliases, instead of real names, by sexual minorities and their treatment with respect to restroom facilities, physical education and health checks, and offer them improved counseling services.
Accurate understanding of the issues involved is required of senior high school guidance counselors. The education ministry and other institutions concerned must work together closely and establish a seamless support system.
The creation of a society, where sexual minorities can live just as they are, has only just begun.
In 2015, the year the education ministry issued its directives to schools across the nation, Tokyo's Shibuya Ward created a system to recognize a quasi-matrimonial partnership for same-sex couples.
The cities of Fukuoka and Osaka, as well as other municipalities, have since followed suit, and other local governments are also preparing to do so.
But in some countries outside Japan, the rights of same-sex couples are better guaranteed by law, such as in their right to wed legally. Of the Group of Seven major economies, Japan is the only country that has yet to recognize same-sex marriage or partnership under the law.
During the current Diet session, a major amendment was made to the civil code to change the inheritance system for the first time in 40 years. Under the revised system, a bigger-than-before chunk of the deceased's asset will go to the spouse of many years or to the deceased's long-time caregiver. But this does not apply to common-law partners, nor to same-sex partners.
The government and the Diet need to work on this major piece of unfinished "homework."
There is no one correct sexual orientation or family format. Diversity exists for real, and respecting it is the only way to build a society where everyone's human rights are protected and nobody is made to feel like an outsider.
Are any of our current systems and customs standing in the way? It is vital that we always keep this in mind and examine them, and be certain to make changes where necessary.

--The Asahi Shimbun, July 11




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