Japan’s longest-running rape crisis center has been declared ineligible to receive public funding following statements made by the facility’s director which were deemed by government officials to be discriminatory against males who identify as transgender.
Tokyo’s Rape Crisis Center was founded in 1983 by six women, half of whom were survivors of sexual assault. Michiko Orita, one of the founders, first confirmed the punitive measure during a meeting held last year in May organized by women’s rights campaign group Save Women’s Spaces, which was primarily concerned with the potential ramifications should gender identity policies be adopted in the nation.
“There have been various attacks and obstructions against our association [Tokyo Rape Crisis Center] throughout the last year. In one specific example, the director of the Minato City Center for Gender Equality carried out a speech suppression and power harassment attack against us for more than an hour, based on criticism that not referring to ‘transgender women’ as ‘women’ is detrimental to the promotion of gender equality and diversity in the Minato Ward,” Orita said during her 2022 presentation.
Under Japanese law, “power harassment” is considered a serious charge. The legal code was updated in 2019 to address “remarks and behavior of people taking advantage of their superior positions in the workplace that exceed what is necessary and appropriate for the conduct of business, thereby harming the working environment of employees.”
It was after this altercation, Orita said, that the Rape Crisis Center (RCC) was removed from a list of projects subsidized by the government. Since that time, the RCC has received threats sent to their email address.
“There is an increase in trans-discriminatory and trans-hate labeling and suppression of speech in a situation where most citizens have no knowledge of gender identity. Currently, victims of sexual violence are the target of criticism as trans-discriminatory, and the harmful effects of this are to silence and attack women victims who are suffering from sexual harm,” Orita said last May.
The issue was again brought to light during an emergency press conference held in Tokyo on May 1 to address concerns about a proposed LGBT bill that would codify “gender identity” into law while banning “unfair discrimination” on that basis, without clearly defining either term.
“Male self-identified ‘women’ ignore the purpose of having a women-only space,” Orita said. “The desire not to have physical men in women-only spaces is not prejudice or a discriminatory attitude, but comes from evidence-based reality.”
Orita revealed that she had heard complaints from survivors of abuse, and explained that men in women’s spaces can be re-traumatizing for victims. “Two years ago, when our organization was selected by the Tokyo Metropolitan government’s Minato Ward to organize a lecture on ‘Considering Equality from the Perspective of Sexual Violence,’ a participant said, ‘A woman I know was victimized by a man dressed as a woman in the women’s bathroom. I don’t want transvestite men and trans women to go into women’s toilets.”
Orita described how the attacks against her, and her establishment more broadly, began in response to views she published in a newsletter put out by the Rape Crisis Center in 2021. In the newsletter, Orita questioned the slander directed at renowned author J.K. Rowling after she publicly threw her support behind Maya Forstater, a woman who had her employment contract terminated for questioning gender identity ideology.
“J. K. Rowling was once a victim of domestic and sexual violence, so she came to believe that people should be distinguished by their biological sex, rather than their gender identity. She said that spaces segregated on the basis of biological sex, such as women-only restrooms, public baths, domestic violence shelters, and sometimes women-only train carriages, are a necessity. It is the right of women, discriminated against from birth on the basis of their physical sex, to have a space free from male violence,” the RCC newsletter read.
Orita said that she was told her newsletter amounted to discrimination because she had referred to trans-identified males as “trans women” instead of women.
“To write ‘trans women’ is apparently ‘discrimination’ and goes to the very heart of the Minato Ward’s selection process for grant aid projects. Since then, we have continued to be excluded from the other women’s projects that have been selected [for funding] all these years.”
Orita continued: “In addition, a seven-page letter was sent by an associate professor at Hiroshima University, and a self-described ‘trans ally’ regarding the article, saying that we should apologize to all transgender people or he would launch a protest action.”
Another topic of concern addressed by the newsletter was a lawsuit being heard in the Supreme Court which has the potential to set a legal precedent allowing sex self-identification. The suit was brought forward by a man who has self-declared his sex as female and is seeking unrestricted access to women’s restrooms.
The man, whose name has not been released to the public, has not undergone any surgery and retains male genitalia. He has been diagnosed with gender identity disorder and has been taking female hormones, and began publicly presenting himself as a woman since 2010. In 2013, he filed a petition with the National Personnel Authority to remove restrictions on his use of women’s restrooms at the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry’s (METI) office, but it was rejected.
However, in 2015, unnamed fellow employees filed a lawsuit demanding that the decision be overturned. in December 2019, the Tokyo District Court ruled that the response was illegal, citing that “it constitutes a restriction on the important legal interest of leading a social life that conforms to one’s self-identified gender.” The ruling acknowledged responsibility for compensation and ordered the payment of 1.32 million yen ($9,600 USD). The case is ongoing, and a hearing in the Supreme Court is scheduled for June 16.
“Attacks and threats were made because we wrote an article about the trial of trans woman A, who works for the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry, who wants to use the women’s restroom alongside his colleagues, and we have since been targeted from all sides,” Orita said in her presentation.
In the newsletter, Orita questioned how a man can feel like a woman on the inside, and stated that she objected to reducing women to external appearances, which she emphasized reinforced stereotypes, and challenged the belief that the plaintiff in the suit had a right to women’s spaces.
“The attitude of Mr. A, who concludes that there is no problem because there were complaints, is the same as when, in a male-dominated society where, if the woman does not say ‘no,’ she is thought to accept it. Mr. A does not recognize the anxieties of women, which even men can imagine, and uses the power of the court to pressure women. What does it men to be a ‘woman at heart?'”
A Twitter account belonging to the anonymous man involved in the lawsuit was discovered to have been making sexually suggestive posts. Women who oppose men entering female-only facilities drew attention to several instances where he had joked about his penis in a sexualized context.
Orita more recently discussed the issue of the RCC being denied funding during an emergency press conference held at the beginning of the month. Four organizations gathered to expressed their opposition to a proposed LGBT Discrimination Bill which includes a stipulation designating a self-declared “gender identity” as a protected characteristic.
Representatives from the Association for Gender Non-Conforming People, a group made up of those who have been diagnosed with gender identity disorder, and the Association to Protect Women’s Spaces, spoke alongside LGB activists to share their concerns about the legislation.
The meeting was assembled in response to mounting pressure from foreign powers to adopt measures enshrining the subjective term “gender identity” into law before the upcoming G-7 Summit, scheduled to begin on May 19. Concerns presented at the press conference included the expanding of women-only spaces to men, which speakers said placed women at risk of assault or harassment, and the treatment of the lesbian community by men who claim to be women.
In recent months, several representatives from both the United States and Australia have met with Japanese officials to discuss the topic of “gender equality,” particularly in how it relates to gender identity under the umbrella of the LGBT movement. The foreign influence in domestic affairs has drawn widespread criticism from Japanese citizens.
Last month, Australia’s Ambassador for Gender Equality, Stephanie Copus Campbell, spoke with members of the national Diet to “discuss how Australia and Japan can work together to promote gender equality.” In February, Copus Campbell announced her appointment to the new role as “Australia’s lead international advocate” for “persons of diverse gender identites” in a video that was met with sharp criticism on social media.
On May 12, the U. S. Ambassador to Japan, Rahm Emanuel, shared a video featuring fifteen foreign representatives pressuring the government of Japan to pass the LGBT bill. “When my closest friends give me the same advice, I pay attention,” he said.
Ambassadors from Argentina, Ireland, Denmark, Sweden, Australia, Finland, Norway, Canada, Germany, the Netherlands, and the United Kingdom, among others, reiterated the message that Japan ought to pass the bill ahead of the G7 summit. The majority of the speakers focused on the same-sex marriage aspect of the bill rather than the more controversial “gender identity” portion.
Japan’s Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) sponsored the LGBT bill and is aiming to pass the legislation before the G-7 Summit in Hiroshima begins on May 19. The term “gender identity” was not included in the LDP’s initial outline of the bill, but was added due to pressure from lobbyists during revision talks in 2021.
Several lawmakers have expressed opposition to the “gender identity” aspect of the bill by pointing out how this infringes on women’s rights and privacy. However, Former Defense Minister Tomomi Inada, who supports the bill, told the press that “the issue of men violating women’s rights by falsely claiming to be women is a problem that has nothing to do with the legislation.”
As previously reported by Reduxx, a Japanese trans-identified male YouTuber prompted backlash last December after boasting of using the women’s sauna at a hotel and describing seeing women naked in highly sexual terms. Nao Wasada, who also uses the name Suzanne Misaki, uploaded a video to his YouTube channel on December 5 titled “What Happened After a Former Man Took Off His Clothes and Entered the Women’s Bath.” He called the experience “paradise,” saying he was in “boob heaven,” and stated that it was not his first time entering a women’s public bath.
International rankings, including those from the World Economic Forum, consistently place Japan as one of the most unequal countries in the developed world in terms of political representation and economic opportunities for women. Sexual harassment involving groping, up-skirting, and the illicit recording of women, known as voyeur pornography, are rampant in the nation. Authorities have designated certain train carriages as women-only and placed public service announcements in response.
Reduxx attempted to contact Orita to provide comment for this article, but did not receive a response prior to publication.
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