Japan elects first openly gay male lawmaker

Japan held upper house elections over the weekend, with Shinzo Abe's Liberal Democratic Party winning 57 of the 124 available seats - the most of any party in the election. In a step forwards for the nation's legislature, Japan also elected its first openly gay male lawmaker.

Taiga Ishikawa was elected to the upper house on a platform of marriage equality. He ran with the main opposition, the Constitutional Democratic Party.

"Since the early 2000s, the issue of same-sex marriage has progressed leaps and bounds. It will happen within the six years of my term, I am sure" Ishikawa told Reuters after he was elected.

Japan has historically been quite progressive around LGBTQI issues within the region, with homosexual sex legal since 1880. Yet being openly gay in the society still remains taboo, and Japan's current Prime Minister, Shinzo Abe, is opposed to legalising same-sex marriage.

"It has been incredibly empowering to the Japanese LGBT community to see the growing acceptance overseas of same-sex marriage. I think we've got a breakthrough now and I plan to move the conversation [surrounding same-sex marriage] forward."

In Japan, recent polls have suggested that 78% of people aged 20 to 60 were in favour of legalising same-sex marriage. Taiwan became the first jurisdiction in Asia to legalise same-sex marriage recently, and Thailand has introduced legislation to recognise same-sex civil unions.

Passing anti-discrimination laws, and ensuring equality for everyone regardless of sexual orientation of gender identification, is integral to closing inequality gaps across the region.



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