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Japanese gay woman battles for upper house seat
By Elaine Lies Reuters - July 29, 2007
TOKYO (Reuters) - A Japanese woman was battling to become Japan's first openly gay parliamentarian on Monday, with voting too close to call in her race for an upper house seat.
Kanako Otsuji, backed by the main opposition Democratic Party, said she hoped her campaign would raise awareness of gay rights in a society where many homosexuals remain in the closet.
"I feel we were finally able to express our feelings and turn them into votes," the 32-year-old told Japanese television.
"I really didn't hear any sort of critical voices when I was campaigning. I was welcomed warmly at my campaign stops."
Supporters waited anxiously for results late into the night at Otsuji's campaign office, located in Shinjuku Ni-chome, an area with several hundred gay bars in Tokyo's west.
Otsuji, who served as a local legislator in the western city of Osaka for four years until April, has said her decision to become a politician was inspired by the pain and isolation of the five years it took her to accept that she was a lesbian.
She revealed her sexual orientation in 2005, when already a legislator in Osaka.
In her autobiography, "Coming Out: A Journey to Find my True Self," she said: "I thought I could give courage to the most people by coming out."
If elected, she has vowed to promote a more diverse society and seek laws to prohibit discrimination, including against sexual minorities. In Osaka, she helped change laws to make it easier for same-sex couples to rent public housing.
Japanese media have increased coverage of sexual minority issues, but social acceptance remains limited and gays are still often shown as comic relief.
Nationalism gains strength in Japan
By Paul Wiseman, USA TODAY
TOKYO — — Yuko Tojo remembers her grandfather, Hideki Tojo, as a gentle man who wrote loving letters to his family and allowed her to tear through the garden with the servants' children. History remembers him as a war criminal, the World War II prime minister responsible for the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor.
Yuko Tojo, 68, seeks a seat in the upper house of Japan's parliament to clear her grandfather's name. In elections Sunday, she is running as an independent, shunned by the ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) that shares many of her revisionist views on Japan's wartime past. Even she is skeptical about her chances, and polls suggest that the LDP, led by unpopular Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, is headed for defeat, too.
Whatever happens Sunday, the nationalistic ideas that Yuko Tojo and the LDP champion are likely to survive. Their platform once languished outside the mainstream: They want Japan to revise the anti-war constitution imposed by the United States after World War II. They want Japan to rearm its military and rewrite history, erasing bits about sneak attacks and massacres and replacing them with odes to patriotism and honor.
Such ideas were heretical in postwar Japan but have gathered public support in recent years as China has launched a rapid military buildup and North Korea has tested missiles and nuclear devices. The United States, which has borne the burden for Japan's defense, has encouraged it to rearm.
"No matter who wins the election, nationalism will grow in Japan," says Yan Xuetong, foreign policy professor at Beijing's Tsinghua University.
Tokyo political commentator Yoshiko Sakurai agrees: A victory Sunday by the opposition Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ) might slow the trend, she says, but won't stop it. Why:
•The LDP, controlled by a nationalist faction, will keep its grip on parliament's lower House of Representatives, which picks the prime minister.
•The LDP has pushed through parts of Abe's nationalist agenda, expanding the role of Japan's armed forces by sending troops to help in Iraq and Afghanistan, passing legislation intended to set the stage for revising the constitution, and approving school policies that stress "patriotic" education.
•Shintaro Ishihara, a nationalist who is governor of Tokyo, punishes teachers who won't follow the patriotic line in the classroom.
Even the opposition DPJ calls for Japan to build its defensive capability and to play a bolder role in world affairs by joining United Nations peacekeeping operations — regarded by past Japanese governments as flirting with constitutional restrictions on war.
The drive to revise the constitution dismays many Japanese, proud of their country's pacifist postwar record. "We have to protect" the constitution, says Hayato Uemura, 51, who sells software. "We shouldn't start war."
Japanese forces invaded and occupied China and South Korea before and during World War II. Right-leaning commentators such as Sakurai deny or downplay documented wartime atrocities such as the Nanking massacre, in which Japanese troops butchered thousands of Chinese civilians.
In 2001, Abe, then the LDP's acting secretary general, pressured national broadcaster NHK to censor a program on the Japanese military's wartime use of sex slaves (known as "comfort women"), according to the Asahi newspaper.
"We did terrible things during the war to foreigners and our own people. This is a fact," says left-leaning political commentator Minoru Morita. "We lost 3.1 million people and a third of our national wealth. It took us 25 years to recover. We learned we have to get along with the United States and China. Some of our politicians don't realize that."
Hundreds of Japanese teachers have refused to cooperate with what they see as coercive attempts to instill patriotism in youngsters and with the revision of Japan's history.
In Tokyo alone, 320 teachers have been punished — some docked pay or suspended — for refusing to salute the flag or stand for the national anthem, according to the Tokyo school board. Akira Suzuki of the school system's personnel department says the board is enforcing the rules, not political orthodoxy.
Tokyo middle school teacher Kimiko Nezu has been suspended so often that she expects to earn less than $17,000 of her $58,000 salary this year.
She says she's been punished for refusing to stand for the national anthem and for teaching her students about comfort women, despite repeated warnings to stay away from the taboo topic.
Nezu, 56, says nationalist pressure began in 1994 and intensified after Ishihara became governor of Tokyo in 1999. "I never imagined it would get this bad so quickly," she says. She was transferred this year to a school for the disabled in what she views as punishment. She expects to lose her job before her lawsuit against the school board is decided next year. "This is my way of being a patriot," she says.
Yuko Tojo has a different view of patriotism. She says she believes history, written by World War II's winners, needs to be revised to salvage the reputation of her country — and her grandfather. He was hanged in 1948 after being convicted of war crimes by an international tribunal. Her view: Japan invaded its neighbors and attacked Pearl Harbor in 1941 because the United States was smothering Japan with economic sanctions. "It was a war of self-defense," she says. "Japan's history has been distorted."
A former housewife, Tojo has no gripe against the United States. Her 29-year-old daughter, who married an American and settled in Seattle, was upset when her husband left his job and joined the U.S. Air Force after the 9/11 attacks. "I told her this is the time his country needs him," Yuko Tojo says. "I told her his act was splendid."
Contributing: Naoko Nishiwaki
Find this article at:
updated 12:36 a.m. EDT, Tue July 24, 2007
Part I: CNN/YouTube Democratic presidential debate transcript
COOPER: Our next question is on a topic that got a lot of response from YouTube viewers. Let's watch.
QUESTION: Hi. My name is Mary.
QUESTION: And my name is Jen.
QUESTION: And we're from Brooklyn, New York.
If you were elected president of the United States, would you allow us to be married to each other?
COOPER: Congressman Kucinich?
KUCINICH: Mary and Jen, the answer to your question is yes. And let me tell you why.
Because if our Constitution really means what it says, that all are created equal, if it really means what it says, that there should be equality of opportunity before the law, then our brothers and sisters who happen to be gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender should have the same rights accorded to them as anyone else, and that includes the ability to have a civil marriage ceremony.
Yes, I support you. And welcome to a better and a new America under a President Kucinich administration.
COOPER: Senator Dodd, you supported the Defense of Marriage Act. What's your position?
DODD: I've made the case, Anderson, that -- my wife and I have two young daughters, age 5 and 2.
I'd simply ask the audience to ask themselves the question that Jackie and I have asked: How would I want my two daughters treated if they grew up and had a different sexual orientation than their parents?
Good jobs, equal opportunity, to be able to retire, to visit each other, to be with each other, as other people do.
So I feel very strongly, if you ask yourself the question, "How would you like your children treated if they had a different sexual orientation than their parents?," the answer is yes. They ought to have that ability in civil unions.
I don't go so far as to call for marriage. I believe marriage is between a man and a woman.
But my state of Connecticut, the state of New Hampshire, have endorsed civil unions. I strongly support that. But I don't go so far as marriage.
COOPER: Governor Richardson?
RICHARDSON: Well, I would say to the two young women, I would level with you -- I would do what is achievable.
What I think is achievable is full civil unions with full marriage rights. I would also press for you a hate crimes act in the Congress. I would eliminate "don't ask/don't tell" in the military.
If we're going to have in our military men and women that die for this country, we shouldn't give them a lecture on their sexual orientation
I would push for domestic partnership laws, nondiscrimination in insurance and housing.
I would also send a very strong message that, in my administration, I will not tolerate any discrimination on the basis of race, gender, or sexual orientation.
COOPER: This next question is for Senator Edwards.
QUESTION: I'm Reverend Reggie Longcrier. I'm the pastor of Exodus Mission and Outreach Church in Hickory, North Carolina.
Senator Edwards said his opposition to gay marriage is influenced by his Southern Baptist background. Most Americans agree it was wrong and unconstitutional to use religion to justify slavery, segregation, and denying women the right to vote.
So why is it still acceptable to use religion to deny gay American their full and equal rights?
EDWARDS: I think Reverend Longcrier asks a very important question, which is whether fundamentally -- whether it's right for any of our faith beliefs to be imposed on the American people when we're president of the United States. I do not believe that's right.
I feel enormous personal conflict about this issue. I want to end discrimination. I want to do some of the things that I just heard Bill Richardson talking about -- standing up for equal rights, substantive rights, civil unions, the thing that Chris Dodd just talked about. But I think that's something everybody on this stage will commit themselves to as president of the United States.
But I personally have been on a journey on this issue. I feel enormous conflict about it. As I think a lot of people know, Elizabeth spoke -- my wife Elizabeth spoke out a few weeks ago, and she actually supports gay marriage. I do not. But this is a very, very difficult issue for me. And I recognize and have enormous respect for people who have a different view of it.
COOPER: I should also point out that the reverend is actually in the audience tonight. Where is he? Right over here.
Reverend, do you feel he answered your question?
QUESTION: This question was just a catalyst that promoted some other things that wrapped around that particular question, especially when it comes to fair housing practices. Also...
COOPER: Do you think he answered the question, though?
QUESTION: Not like I would like to have heard it...
COOPER: What did you not hear?
QUESTION: I didn't quite get -- some people were moving around, and I didn't quite get all of his answer. I just heard...
COOPER: All right, there's 30 seconds more. Why is it OK to quite religious beliefs when talking about why you don't support something? That's essentially what's his question.
EDWARDS: It's not. I mean, I've been asked a personal question which is, I think, what Reverend Longcrier is raising, and that personal question is, do I believe and do I personally support gay marriage?
The honest answer to that is I don't. But I think it is absolutely wrong, as president of the United States, for me to have used that faith basis as a basis for denying anybody their rights, and I will not do that when I'm president of the United States.
COOPER: Senator Obama, the laws banning interracial marriage in the United States were ruled unconstitutional in 1967. What is the difference between a ban on interracial marriage and a ban on gay marriage?
OBAMA: Well, I think that it is important to pick up on something that was said earlier by both Dennis and by Bill, and that is that we've got to make sure that everybody is equal under the law. And the civil unions that I proposed would be equivalent in terms of making sure that all the rights that are conferred by the state are equal for same-sex couples as well as for heterosexual couples.
Now, with respect to marriage, it's my belief that it's up to the individual denominations to make a decision as to whether they want to recognize marriage or not. But in terms of, you know, the rights of people to transfer property, to have hospital visitation, all those critical civil rights that are conferred by our government, those should be equal.
COOPER: We're going to take a quick break, but before we go we're going to show another candidate video. This one is from the Clinton campaign. And then when we come back from the break, we'll see one from the -- from Senator Edwards' campaign.
Transgender inmate sues over prison rape
By LISA LEFF, Associated Press
Fri Jul 20, 9:45 PM ET
Alexis Giraldo was born as a man but lives life as a woman. She takes hormones to feminize her appearance, a fact she says prison officials didn't care about even as her male cellmate repeatedly raped and beat her.
Now free on parole, Giraldo is suing the state prison system and several guards over the state's policy of assigning transgender inmates to men's or women's prisons depending on whether they have had a sex change.
"Prisons are violent places, and male prisons are especially violent places," said Greg Walston, a lawyer who took Giraldo's case for free and asked a jury this week for unspecified damages. "You take that boiling cauldron and you put one woman in there — which is exactly what happened here — and it's like throwing a fresh piece of meat into a lion's cage."
Giraldo, 30, claims Folsom State Prison guards ignored her complaints and returned her to the same cell until she was assaulted again, then placed in protective custody and moved to another facility.
Giraldo is suing the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation for emotional distress and violating her constitutional right to be free from cruel and unusual punishment. She has asked Superior Court Judge Ellen Chaitin to order prison officials to come up with a new system for housing transgender inmates.
The Associated Press has a policy of not naming people alleging sexual assault. However, Giraldo has spoken out publicly and has been identified by a transgender rights organization that is advocating for her.
Several counties in California, including San Francisco, have created separate units specifically for transgender prisoners. But like other states and the federal Bureau of Prisons, California assigns inmates to prisons based on their genitalia rather than physical appearance.
Biological men who dress and act like women but have not had sex reassignment surgery can be assigned to a psychiatric prison like the one to which Giraldo eventually transferred or the general population of a regular men's prison, according to Walston.
The California attorney general's office, which is representing the corrections department and Folsom staff members also named as defendants in the lawsuit, said Friday it would not comment on the case.
Briefs filed by the state argue that Giraldo initially was in a consensual sexual relationship with her cellmate in violation of prison policy, did not report specific rape claims and refused offers to be moved to a different cell. Once she made it clear her cellmate was sexually assaulting her and prison staff found strangulation marks on her neck, she was removed to protective custody, the state maintains.
"Plaintiff alleges that he informed prison staff on a number of occasions about these events. However, the documentation maintained by prison personnel — including some of the defendants in this case — does not bear out these assertions," the state's brief states.
Teda Boyll, a retired guard and supervisor in California, testified for Giraldo as an expert witness Friday, saying that in her opinion Folsom officials failed to adequately investigate Giraldo's concerns and assure her safety.
"There are some warning signs," Boyll said. "When an inmate says, 'I am getting pressured for sex,' it means it is already happened or it is imminent he will have to provide nonconsensual sex to another inmate."
Giraldo was sent to Folsom for shoplifting and a parole violation in January 2006. She spent three months in the general prison population and another four in a single cell away from other inmates. She remained in the medical prison until she was paroled this month.
She testified Friday that she voluntarily had sex with her former cellmate, Jorge Villavacencio, for a couple of weeks but that she changed her mind after he became violent and possessive. She said that she informed a psychologist and at least three guards about her circumstances, but that they did not take them seriously.
"I'm like scared and frustrated that this happened to me," Giraldo said from the witness stand. "I'm a woman who got raped. ... I feel like people know and think of me as dirty. I feel dirty."
Villavacencio has denied raping Giraldo and is scheduled to testify for the state.
Valerie Jenness, a University of California, Irvine, criminologist who recently studied sexual assaults in California prisons, testified that 59 percent of the state's transgender inmates have reported being sexually assaulted, compared with 4 percent of the general prison population.
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