Japan schools a 'hateful' place for LGBT students: Rights group

Boris Dittrich (centre), Advocacy Director of the LGBT rights program of the Human Rights Watch, speaks during a conference on May 6, 2016.
Boris Dittrich (centre), Advocacy Director of the LGBT rights program of the Human Rights Watch, speaks during a conference on May 6, 2016.PHOTO: AFP

TOKYO (AFP) - Japanese schools are filled with "hateful" comments about gay and transgender people, including from teachers, which aggravates bullying and drives some students into depression, Human Rights Watch (HRW) said in a report Friday (May 6).

"Hateful anti-LGBT rhetoric is nearly ubiquitous in Japanese schools, driving LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) students into silence, self-loathing and, in some cases, self-harm," the group said.

The study was based on interviews with dozens of students from the LGBT community, and also teachers, who HRW said were often a key part of the problem.

"The information vacuum combined with pervasive hateful comments from students and teachers alike means sexual and gender minority children in Japan sometimes first struggle with their identities with shame and disgust," it said.

Nearly every interviewee "said that they heard anti-LGBT rhetoric in school, including LGBT people called 'disgusting,' the use of slur words such as 'homo', and declarations that 'these creatures should never have been born'".

Japan lags behind the US and many other Western nations in terms of gay rights and same-sex marriage, despite greater public acceptance of the LGBT community in recent years.

Among those interviewed, Sachi N., a 20-year-old lesbian, said she learnt in class that homosexual relations were the main cause of Aids and were a "very weird thing to do".

"Everything I heard and was taught (about LGBT people) was bad," she was quoted as saying.

"Even though now I am a lesbian and I know it, I still have a bad concept of it. I still think it's my fault and I can improve it." Bullying is widespread - and sometimes brutal - in Japanese schools, and government policies geared to fixing the problem do not specifically address LGBT students, who are among the most vulnerable, the rights group said.

"The government should urgently bring its (anti-bullying) policies to protect LGBT students in line with international standards and best practices," said Kanae Doi, HRW's Japan director.