This move was long overdue. Tokyo City Hall on Tuesday began issuing union certificates to same-sex couples living or working in the Japanese capital. They allow LGBTQ partners to be treated as married couples for certain public services related to housing, health or social care.
The only G7 country that does not recognize same-sex unions is Japan, whose constitution provides that “marriage shall take place only with the mutual consent of both sexes”.
The district town hall of Shibuya, Tokyo’s trendy district, was the first in Japan to be awarded such a certificate in 2015. More than 200 municipalities or local authorities followed suit. As of Oct. 28, 137 couples had already applied for union certificates, Tokyo’s governor Yuriko Koike said last week.
A testament to common life
These certificates are far from conferring the same rights as legal marriage, but the new status proposed by Tokyo City Hall represents progress for both women, Miki and Katie.
“My biggest fear is that in an emergency we will be treated as if we are strangers to each other,” Miki, a 36-year-old Japanese woman, told AFP with her American girlfriend Katie. 31 years. Without a certificate, each used to slip a note in his wallet with the other’s contact details.
A long legal road
There are high hopes that issuing such certificates, which apply to Tokyo residents and those who live in the suburbs but work in the capital, will help tackle anti-LGBTQ discrimination in Japan.
In recent years, Japan, led by a conservative right-wing party, has taken small steps toward embracing sexual diversity. A 2021 poll by state broadcaster NHK showed that 57% of respondents supported same-sex marriage and 37% opposed.
But the law still has a long way to go. Last June, the Osaka (West) Court ruled that the non-recognition of same-sex marriage was not unconstitutional, dismissing three same-sex couples who filed complaints against the government. Instead in 2021, a court in Sapporo (North) found that the current situation violated the right to equality guaranteed by the Constitution.
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