LGBTQ activists protest outside parliament before submitting a petition to the ruling equal rights party in Tokyo on March 25.


In Japan, judges seem more in tune with their time than the legislator, deaf to the demands for protection of same-sex couples and the prevention of the discrimination of which they are victims.

Three judgments are indicative of an evolution of case law both in terms of the recognition of sexual minorities and the issue of marriage for all in the last G7 country not to recognize same-sex unions.

In February, a Tokyo Magistrate’s Court judge ruled that a sexual relationship between two women, one of whom was married, could be prosecuted for adultery and sentenced the wife’s lover. to pay the equivalent of 1,000 euros in damages to the husband who had filed a complaint against his wife’s partner. The Japanese civil code allows the deceived husband or wife to seek financial compensation in court for the harm suffered. In that case, the judge ruled that adultery is not limited to an affair between people of the opposite sex.

In March, the Tokyo Court of Appeal upheld the ruling of a trial judge who, in a relationship case between two women, had ruled in favor of the plaintiff who was suing her partner for “Adultery”. This recognition by justice of relations between women marks an evolution.


Until the XIXe century, lesbian love had not been normalized as such while male homosexuality was aestheticized in the samurai class. Relations between women remained in the shadows although erotic prints and literature reported. Under the influence of Western forensic discourse, Japan would “discover” lesbianism not as a practice but as an “obscene act”.

Relations between girls became a sensitive issue in the early twentieth century.e century with suicides in student couples, then they gave rise to quality novels. After experiencing complex relationships with feminism in the aftermath of the war, lesbianism gained greater visibility with the LGBT movement.

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Another judgment goes further. On March 17, Judge Takebe Tomoko, of the Sapporo Magistrates’ Court, ruling on a claim for compensation for the “Psychological damage” suffered by three homosexual couples victims of discrimination, rejected their request. But she felt that denying same-sex couples the rights associated with marriage is a “Discrimination without legal basis” which violates article 14 of the Constitution on equality of all before the law. “It is established that sexual orientations are independent of the will of the persons concerned”, she added, refuting the hackneyed cliché about the pathological nature of gender orientations.

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