Photo/IllutrationA Setagaya Ward assembly committee on Feb. 26 unanimously approves a draft ordinance to fight discrimination against racial, ethnic and sexual minorities. (Taichiro Yoshino)

Tokyo’s Setagaya Ward has drafted an ordinance designed to protect racial, ethnic and sexual minorities from discriminatory practices, a move hailed by human rights experts as an “advanced measure.”

The ward was one of the first local governments in Japan to recognize same-sex marriages, and the draft ordinance covers sexual minorities.

However, the draft specifically notes that its target also includes discrimination based on nationality and race.

Under the plan, the ward will establish a committee that will handle public complaints about discrimination and advise the mayor on what measures to take.

A standing committee of the Setagaya Ward assembly approved the draft on Feb. 26. The assembly is expected to adopt the ordinance at a plenary session on March 2, and it will likely take effect in April.

“I have never heard of an ordinance that is intended to end discrimination based on nationality and race and will create a system for handling complaints,” said lawyer Kim Chang-ho, a third-generation ethnic Korean and a member of a nongovernmental organization that protects the human rights of foreign residents in Japan.

“The ordinance will be of help in collecting evidence when victims call for action on discriminatory problems. I hope that the measure will spread nationwide,” Kim said.

Other municipalities have complaint management committees, but they mainly handle cases of sexual discrimination.

The Setagaya Ward committee will consist of three members who will act as advisers to the mayor.

Although the draft contained no punitive measures against offenders, it did suggest possible action that could be taken.

The ward, for example, could refuse to allow hate-speech groups to use public spaces and facilities for demonstrations and meetings. The ward also wants to ensure the needs of sexual minorities and other groups are met when they use public facilities.

In addition, the ward could issue “improvement” instructions to landlords who refuse to rent apartments to minorities, as well as those responsible for discriminatory graffiti or online videos.

Shigenori Nakagawa, a lawyer involved in protecting the rights of sexual minorities, praised the ward’s move.

“Amid a society where discrimination and stereotypes about sexual minorities are deeply rooted, it is meaningful to clearly specify basic social rules,” Nakagawa said.