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News

Japanese Lesbian Politician Speaks with Foreign Journalists - 26 June 2007

(Tokyo) Kanako Otsuji, Japan’s first openly lesbian politician, who is running in the upcoming Upper House election, held a press conference at the Foreign Correspondents’ Club of Japan on 20 June.

While Japanese media has paid attention almost exclusively to Otsuji’s sexuality, foreign journalists are more interested in her campaign itself. She will be the first openly LGBT politician in parliament, a fact they think would accelerate Japan’s movement for LGBT equality. They are also paying attention to whether Japanese society will accept a lesbian politician and LGBT issues as a political matter.

At the conference, Otsuji talked about her motivation for running for office, the process of getting an official party endorsement, and the difficult situations surrounding LGBT people in Japan.

She asserted the importance of bias-free education and the need to establish anti-discrimination laws including LGBT people and a civil partnership act.

In a question-and-answer session after her speech, Otsuji was asked how high the possibility is that she will win the election. She answered that she can get the 150,000 votes necessary for her victory if currently silent LGBT community votes for her.

When asked what she thinks about that Guido Westerwelle, the openly gay leader of Freie Demokratische Partei, Germany’s center right party, she said that she wants Japan to be like Germany in 10 years and will put her effort toward making it happen.

In other countries, openly LGBT politicians are not very rare. There is Vladimir Luxuria, a transgender member of the Italian parliament, and gay United States Congressman, Barney Frank from Massachusetts. Penny Sharpe, an Australian Upper House member, and Tammy Baldwin, a U.S. Congresswoman from Wisconsin, are both lesbian.

According to the Gay and Lesbian Victory Fund, there are about 300 openly LGBT politicians in the U.S.

After the conference, Otsuji told GayJapanNews that she is happy that the foreign media has been paying attention to her campaign. She added that she wanted to appeal to the Japanese media that LGBT issues are political and human rights issues.

The election schedule has been changed from 22 to 29 July as the ruling parties, the Liberal Democratic Party and New Komeito, have decided to extend parliamentary sessions. (Editors Tom Paine, Azusa Yamashita)

>>Kanako Otsuji's Homepage

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