A region in Japan has made history by making it a criminal offense to ‘out’ someone by disclosing their sexuality or trans status without their permission.
Mie, in the south of the country’s main island of Honshu, is the first prefecture to enact such legislation, Gay Star News has reported.
The government has not yet announced what penalty may be associated with unlawful outing, with officials still considering possible options.
Governor Eikei Suzuki, who signed the new law, said that outing without a person’s consent can be harmful.
Suzuki said that outing can “destabilise family and working relationships and drive people into isolation by disrupting their friendships and contact with other people”.
“We need to do more to create a society that cares for each other,” said Suzuki.
With a population of more than 1.7 million people, Mie is the first Japanese prefecture to criminalise outing.
The city of Kunitachi in Tokyo passed a similar law in 2018, following the suicide of a student who was outed to his friends.
“Outing is a life-threatening harassment,” said Yuichi Kamiya, executive director of the LGBT Law Federation in Tokyo.
“Administrative regulations should be expanded.”
Outing is a widespread issue in Japan.
Crisis support lines have reported that they receive a significant number of calls from LGBTIQ people who are in distress about being outed, often by someone they had come out to in confidence.
Cities and regions in Japan commonly legislate on LGBTIQ issues in the absence of progress at the federal level.
While the country has yet to legalise marriage equality, dozens of cities and prefectures recognise same-sex partnerships.
LGBTIQ rights are relatively progressive in Japan, with polls suggesting most people are supportive of same-sex relationships and marriage, particularly younger people.
Trans people have been permitted to change their legal sex since 2003, though this is subject to conditions including sterilisation that have been challenged by equality activists.