It’s been a long and arduous fight, but it looks like change is finally coming for Japanese residents – at least within the Minato ward – who have struggled with rigid heteronormative dress codes at school and workplaces. The districts and neighbourhoods that fall within Minato include Roppongi, Akasaka, Azabu and Shiba (where you'll find Tokyo Tower).
A new ordinance, proposed by Minato ward in early January, was pushed in favour of LGBT minorities who expressed discomfort in being required to wear a uniform that didn’t match their gender identity. This will be the first time that any ward in Japan has enacted an ordinance guaranteeing freedom of expression for LGBT individuals.
The ward hopes this will also help accelerate LGBT acceptance among schools, as an alarming number of students have reported harassment and discrimination over their sexual identity. It didn’t help that many Japanese schools, both public and private, still tightly regulate their uniforms: girls are required to wear pleated skirts and only boys can go to school in trousers. While a number of schools across Japan recognised the impracticality of barring half their students from wearing trousers to school, ones that give their students the right to choose trousers over skirts are still a rarity.
If properly reviewed and enacted, this by-law would be monumental in transforming not only school uniforms but dress codes in professional settings as well. Minato ward assures that this new policy will guarantee freedom for individuals to freely express themselves through clothing choice and makeup. The ordinance was inspired by a call to help make the city more livable for LGBT minorities, but the new policy would also benefit Minato residents who don’t necessarily identify as LGBT. Critically, women will finally be free of the ludicrous requirement of constantly wearing heels at work – a right that women by the likes of Yumi Ishikawa (founder of the #KuToo movement) have been lobbying for years.
A draft of the ordinance guaranteeing the right to freedom of expression will be submitted in February with the aim of putting it into effect in April this year.