Human Rights Watch calls bullying of LGBT students in Japan 'epidemic'

Mon. May 9, 2016 7:53 AM by

Human Rights Watch (HRW) on Friday released an 84-page report on the bullying of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender students in Japanese schools.

In the report, titled The Nail That Sticks Out Gets Hammered Down: LGBT Bullying and Exclusion in Japanese Schools, HRW mostly blames the Japanese government for the nation's "bullying epidemic."

"Based on interviews with more than 50 LGBT students and former students in fourteen prefectures throughout Japan – as well as teachers, officials, and academic experts – this report documents bullying, harassment and discrimination in Japanese schools based on sexual orientation and gender identity or expression, and the poor record of schools when it comes to appropriately responding to and preventing such incidents," researchers wrote.

"Hateful anti-LGBT rhetoric is nearly ubiquitous in Japanese schools, driving LGBT students into silence, self-loathing, and in some cases, self-harm," the report continued. "The information vacuum combined with pervasive hateful comments from students and teachers alike means sexual and gender minority children in Japan sometimes first struggle with their identities with shame and disgust."

M.L., a high school student, told HRW that he was bullied.

"They would kick me or hit me, just to make others laugh," he said in a video interview. "Since I was little, I have wanted to kill myself many times. When I told my teacher that I was being bullied, the teacher told me that it was my problem. They behaved as if it didn't concern them or it wasn't important."

Researcher Kyle Knight explained that the pressure for students to conform is driving the bullying.

"Some scholars believe bullying is a strategy some teachers use, in effect, to outsource discipline to the student body – that a little bit of bullying or pressure to conform from peers will make everyone better behaved," he said.

Bathroom access was "a huge problem for transgender kids," he added. "They were bullied if they used the bathroom of their sex assigned at birth and bullied if they used the bathroom of the sex they identified with."

Knight said HRW wanted the Japanese government to incorporate LGBT students into its bullying policy, which is up for review.

"The government should make it clear that students who want to change their uniform or go to a different bathroom don't need to be diagnosed with a mental disorder," he said. "Japan has the capacity to solve this problem

Article provided in partnership with On Top Magazine