Japan grants refugee status for LGBT asylum seeker for first time

A Japanese site is reporting that for the very first time an LGBT asylum seeker has been given refugee status in Japan on the grounds of homophobic persecution in their home country.

Though the details including the refugee’s home country and gender have been withheld for protection, website Asahi reported: “According to the Immigration Control Agency, the applicant was arrested by police in his home country for homosexuality, held in jail for two years, and then came to Japan during bail”.

The person was granted refugee status because if they were to return to their country of origin they will be arrested.

News that Japan has welcomed a gay asylum seeker is a surprise. According to Japan Times 10,493 people applied for refugee status in Japan for 2018, but there only 42 people on record that were granted asylum because of some kind of persecution they would face in their home country.

PinkNews reports on the country being a conservative nation when it comes to LGBT rights. It does not allow same-sex marriage and there is little protection against discrimination because of sexual orientation or gender identity in terms of the law.

According to Asahi, the Immigration Bureau said homosexuality was “a characteristic that is closely linked to personality or identity and difficult to change”. It based their judgement on the fact that “there is a risk of being persecuted because he is a member of a specific social group”.

Japan seems to be loosening its conservative stance on the LGBT rights. In March, a Taiwanese man in a gay relationship with a Japanese citizen was given special permission to stay in the country.

 A lawyer said that it was “the first time special permission to stay in the country has been given to a foreign gay partner of a Japanese citizen”.