Tokyo will start recognising same-sex partnerships from November, making it the largest city in Japan to do so. The move comes amid growing calls in Japan for equality for sexual minorities. But they still cannot get legally married.
What this means is same-sex couples in the country’s most populous area will be issued certificates to prove their partnership status, which will allow them to apply for government and private-sector services, as stated in a draft of the plan posted on the Tokyo government’s website. It, according to Kyodo news, is the updated version of one released in February.
Tokyo will be the ninth among Japan’s 47 prefectures to introduce some form of partnership system following Aomori, Akita, Ibaraki, Gunma, Mie, Osaka, Fukuoka and Saga.
But same sex couples are still unable to get legally married in Japan, the only nation of the Group of Seven countries that does not recognise same-sex unions. Its constitution stipulates that “marriage shall be only with the mutual consent of both sexes”.
What the draft of the Tokyo plan states
According to the updated draft, the certificate will also be issued to couples where at least one of them plans to move to the capital within three months, the officials said. Non-Japanese nationals who meet the requirements will also be eligible.
To apply for what is called the “Tokyo Partnership Oath System”, both must be adults and at least one partner needs to be a sexual minority and resides or works in Tokyo.
With the certificate, same-sex couples can apply for municipal housing and give consent at hospitals for surgery to be performed on their partners.
According to Kyodo news report, the same-sex partnership certificates can be applied and issued within 10 days and this is entirely online to protect privacy. Applicants with children will also have the option to include the children’s names on the certificates, the authorities said.
The authorities in Tokyo said it received around 8,300 comments as it sought public opinion on the system. It added that some people approved the scheme, saying their “existence (as a sexual minority) is being recognised by society”.
Legislators are asked to approve the revised local ordinance in June, before the authorities in Tokyo begin accepting applications for the certificates in October and issuing them in November.
The city has also released a statement saying the goal of the certificates is “to promote understanding among Tokyo residents about sexual diversity and to reduce inconveniences in daily lives surrounding sexual minorities in order to create more pleasant living conditions for them”, the Associated Press (AP) reports.
Japanese public largely support LGBT+ rights, blocked by conservative ruling party
The Japanese public largely supports same-sex marriage. A poll conducted by the Asahi newspaper in March 2021, showing 65 per cent in favour, but the conservative Liberal Democratic Party, which has held power for most of the last 70 years, has yet to make concrete progress on the issue.
LGBTQ+ rights groups in Japan had campaigned for nationwide marriage equality ahead of last year’s Summer Olympics, but Prime Minister Fumio Kishida’s ruling party blocked any progress on the matter.
Celebrating the step forward, Dear Straight People, Asia’s leading online LGBTQ+ publication based in Singapore, posted on its Instagram that this is a “small step in the right direction”.
The publication reaches over 300,000 people a month.
People fighting for same–sex marriage rights around the world have seen global support increase in recent years. As of December 2021, 31 countries across the globe have legalised same-sex marriages nationally or regionally through legislation or court decisions.