Japanese LGBT/PLHIV orgs report in OK, but uncertainty remains

Published: March 18, 2011

During crisis times such as this, LGBT people and PLHIV may face additional difficulties. Fridae gets in touch with LGBT/ PLHIV groups to find out how they are coping.

LGBT people especially those living at evacuation centres may have to keep their relationships under wraps and not be able to draw on the support of his/her same-sex partner despite the trauma they are going through. Transgender people may not be able to access medical supplies they need and may also face discrimination at evacuation centres such as using the restrooms of the gender they identify with, LGBT groups tell Fridae.

On March 11, Japan was hit by a magnitude-9 earthquake – the largest ever in the country’s history. The quake and a massive 10-metre high tsunami that followed devastated dozens of cities and villages along a 2,100km stretch of the nation’s north-eastern coast. Many survivors in the affected areas have spent a week without running water, as power and fuel shortages loomed and temperatures dropped below freezing. The quake was felt as far away as Tokyo, approximately 360km south of the epicentre, with residents now facing occasional power cuts, and fuel shortage and no or very short supply of bottled water, rice, dry noodles, and other essentials although there was relatively little damage reported.

According to media reports, the National Police Agency (NPA) said on Friday that the massive quake and tsunami has left 6,911 people dead and 10,316 others unaccounted for in Japan as of Friday. Japan’s public broadcaster NHK said that more than 410,000 people in 12 prefectures are living in shelters, including the worst-hit Miyagi, Fukushima and Iwate. The Japanese government has evacuated residents from areas within a 20km radius from the plant and advised those within a 30km radius to stay indoors although the US government is recommending that those within an 80km radius evacuate the area.

Azusa Yamashita, who lives in Iwate Prefecture and works as a project researcher at the Office for Gender Equality, Iwate University, says she has been able to go to the office to work every day since the quake as her town is not sea-facing. She reports that she believes staff and volunteers of GayJapanNews to be safe.

Azusa, the co-founder and editor of Tokyo-based GayJapanNews, also told Fridae that there isn’t an active LGBT scene or LGBT organisations in the most affected provinces of Iwate, Miyagi and Fukushima as the Tohoku region is largely conservative.

The largest city nearest to the epicentre is Sendai which has a population of about one million. There are two known LGBT groups, Anego and Yarokko, operating in the city.

Azusa adds that according to the information posted on Anego’s website as of 17 March, the LGBT centre is open but they are not able to get in touch with some of their members in the coastal areas in Miyagi.

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