Japan: Gov't grants refugee status to gay foreign national

The government granted refugee status to a foreign national in 2018 over fears of persecution owing to the person’s same-sex sexual orientation, sources with knowledge of the matter said Tuesday.

The case was the first in which Japan has recognized a foreign national as a refugee for such a reason, according to the Immigration Services Agency. The agency did not disclose the nationality, gender or other personal details of the person in question.

Sexual acts between members of the same sex are subject to imprisonment in the home country of the foreign national, according to the agency. The person was arrested and held in prison for two years there.

The person applied for refugee status after being freed on bail and arriving in Japan.

According to the International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association (ILGA), some 70 countries, mainly Middle East and African nations, ban same-sex relationships.

“We welcome the move as a step forward taken finally,” said Eri Ishikawa, head of the Japan Association for Refugees, adding that it is common globally for people to be granted refugee status owing to their sexual orientation. Read more via Japan Times