Sexual minorities and human rights in Japan: an historical perspective



Publication Details

McLelland, M. J. & Suganuma, K. (2009). Sexual minorities and human rights in Japan: an historical perspective. The International Journal of Human Rights, 13 (2-3), 329-343.


Contemporary Japan maintains longstanding and well-documented traditions of samesex eroticism and yet the terminology for describing these traditions as well as the contexts and identities through which they have been expressed have changed greatly since Japan’s opening to the West at the end of the nineteenth century. These changes have been most striking in the post-war period, when new rights-centred discourses concerning issues of sexual identity and sexual citizenship began to develop alongside enduring Japanese notions situating sexual expression in the private realm of personal interest or play. Taking a broad historical view, this paper shows that it is only since the mid-1980s that a voluble discourse linking same-sex sexual activity and human rights has gained mainstream attention. The factors that led to this paradigm shift are outlined as are the current and future challenges facing a range of sexual minorities in Japan.

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