The appointment of the first Independent Expert on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity in the 32nd session of the Human Rights Council marked an important milestone in the LGBTI struggle. However, the distance yet to be travelled was brought home in a stark fashion in the 36th session of the Human Rights Council in the debate around the death penalty.
The only two countries of the G8 which still retain the death penalty are the USA and Japan. Japan’s retention of the death penalty remains an anomaly in a country which has otherwise been in the forefront of capitalist modernity. While embracing modernity, the one area where Japan has demurred is with respect to the progressive abolition of the death penalty.
The death penalty in Japan is carried out in secret and the entire process is shrouded in secrecy. Death row prisoners are held in solitary confinement and there are only a bare minimum of visitors permitted with the press being barred. The date on which execution is to take place is not known by the prisoner, who is forced to imagine that each day he lives may be his last.  It is this stark domestic reality which makes Japan such a strong opponent of the death penalty resolutions at the Human Rights Council as well as the General Assembly.
The discourse around the death penalty in Japan contrasts unfavourably with the resolutions on SOGI with respect to which Japan has expressed unqualified support. In both Resolution 17/19 of 2011 and Resolution 27/32 of 2014, Japan voted ‘yes’. In its votes on these resolutions, Japan has shown a desire to be seen to be on the ‘right side of history’.
The abolition of the death penalty and voting for resolutions seeking the eventual abolition of the death penalty would be in conformity with Japan’s self-image of being a modern progressive nation. Japanese support for the resolutions on the death penalty depends upon the success of the abolitionist campaign within Japan.