Lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender students in Japan experience widespread bullying in school — and it's the government's fault. At least, that's according to a report out Friday from Human Rights Watch, a nongovernmental organization with headquarters in New York.
The international advocacy group found LGBT students in Japan are frequently encountering threats, violence and harassment on campus, with 86 percent of respondents to one survey saying they'd heard peers or teachers insult or joke about LGBT people. The organization claimed this was partially because protecting LGBT children isn't a priority in government policy or teacher training programs. Officials promote "social norms and a climate of harmony" while insisting that all children are at risk of bullying.
“The Japanese government has made gestures of support to LGBT students in recent years, but national anti-bullying policies remain silent on sexual orientation and gender identity,” Kanae Doi, the Japan director at Human Rights Watch, said in a news release. “The government should urgently bring its policies to protect LGBT students in line with international standards and best practices.”
The Japanese Diet passed an anti-bullying law in 2013 amid evidence that student bullying was surging across the country and was the cause of at least one child suicide. It forced schools to report bullying cases to the government and monitor students' internet communications, according to the Japan Times.
But Human Rights Watch said Friday the legislation hasn't worked, noting that the policy doesn't even mention LGBT students.
While the report pointed out that teachers are instructed to prevent bullying among students, it also included anecdotes from several LGBT students who said their educators were part of the problem. Among those quoted in the report were a lesbian teenager who said her teachers watched as her classmates hit her with paper for not appearing to be "girly enough," a gay male student who said a teacher once called him a "homo," and a high schooler who said her gym coach had "pointed to a chart of a woman and asked us to recite that women love men."
“When students stood out as different, they suffered bullying," researcher Kyle Knight told reporters at a news conference, according to the Japan Times. "They felt isolated, because they didn’t recognize themselves in their school textbooks or any of the lessons they were being taught."
Human Rights Watch argued that it's the government's responsibility to remedy the issue. Among its recommendations were for schools to recognize and honor students' gender identity, include lessons about sexual orientation in sex education programs, better 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 organization wrote.