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Japan urges to fight discrimination and abuse in sport

Tokyo 2020 President Seiko Hashimoto poses with representatives, staff and guests during a visit to the Pride House Tokyo Legacy in Tokyo, Japan, April 27, 2021. Eugene Hoshiko / Pool via REUTERS / File Photo

TOKYO, July 19 (Reuters) – Japan should use the Olympics as an opportunity to stand up against gender identity and sexual orientation discrimination in sports and prevent physical abuse of young athletes, activists said on Monday, just days before the start of the Tokyo Games.

Although Japan is known for its strong civil society and democracy, it has serious human rights problems to solve, Human Rights Watch said, adding that the Olympic Charter prohibits all forms of discrimination.

The group released its “Reporters’ Guide” to the Olympics last week, covering Japan’s human rights record and the Tokyo Games, and the legislature’s failure to do so in the run-up to the Olympics, which will run from July 23 to Aug.

“LGBT athletes are particularly exposed to abuse and stigma and trauma because of their experience in sports,” said Minky Worden, the group’s director of global initiatives (sport), in a virtual briefing.

“It’s pretty shocking that not a single ‘outer’ athlete as we understand it will compete for the host nation.”

While Japanese law is considered relatively liberal by Asian standards, social attitudes and stigma have made the LGBT community largely invisible.

Gon Matsunaka, head of Japan’s first permanent LGBT community center, said that while the host city of Tokyo passed an anti-discrimination law, LGBT people elsewhere in Japan have no legal protection.

He said that for fear of stigma, there were also few LGBT allies in what he called the male-dominated Japanese sports culture.

“There is tremendous discrimination against sexual minorities within the sports arena,” he said. “Heterosexual men have power. LGBTQ people are discriminated against in this type of culture.”

Human Rights Watch also urged a commitment to combat physical abuse as a coaching technique in school and youth sports in Japan, as well as impunity for teachers and coaches.

Human Rights Watch said a survey of 381 current or former youth athletes last year found that 46% of them were ill-treated, including beaten, beaten, beaten, kicked, or hit with objects.

“Many suffer from depression, physical disabilities and lifelong trauma as a result,” said Worden.

Japan issued a 2013 Declaration on Eliminating Violence in Sport calling on federations to track abuse and put in place reporting systems, while a 2019 code of governance aimed to provide guidelines for all sporting bodies.

Reporting by Martin Petty; Editing by Ken Ferris

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