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Bullying of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) students is at “epidemic” levels in Japanese schools, exacerbated by government’s failure to institute effective policies, inadequate teacher training and strong gender segregation, Human Rights Watch said in a report released yesterday.

The study was based on interviews with dozens of LGBT students at schools across the country, and also teachers, who the rights group said were often a key part of the problem.

The report – titled “The Nail That Sticks Out Gets Hammered Down: LGBT Bullying and Exclusion in Japanese Schools” – states that bullying in Japanese schools is “widespread and brutal.”

Nearly every interviewee “said that they heard anti-LGBT rhetoric in school, including LGBT people called ‘disgusting,’ the use of slur words such as ‘homo,’ and declarations that ‘these creatures should never have been born'”.

The report said LGBT students are among the most vulnerable to bullying, but “the government policies addressing bullying do not specifically address the issues of LGBT students.”

LGBT students said their teachers often told them that by being openly gay or transgender, they were being selfish and should expect not to succeed in school.

While HRW noted that such discrimination is not just an issue in Japan, the country does lag behind the United States and many other Western nations in terms of gay rights and same-sex marriage.

Historically, Japan has been broadly tolerant of homosexuality, with documented cases of samurai warriors during feudal times having male lovers, while same-sex relationships have been depicted in traditional art, such as ukiyoe, or wood block prints.

As Japan modernised, however, from the late 19th century, Western prejudices against homosexuality were increasingly adopted.

Human Rights Watch argue that it’s the government’s responsibility to remedy the issue. Among its recommendations were for schools to recognise and honour students’ gender identity, include lessons about sexual orientation in sex education programs, train teachers about human rights and develop explicit nondiscrimination policies.

“No child’s safety or healthy development should depend on a chance encounter with a compassionate adult,” the organisation wrote.


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