Progress is being made, albeit slowly, in Japan’s fight to gain equal rights for same-sex couples. On December 7, Tokyo Governor Yuriko Koike made a statement announcing a plan for the Tokyo Metropolis to recognise same-sex partnerships by April 2023. Currently, a handful of Tokyo’s municipalities including Shibuya, Bunkyo and Minato, issue ‘partnership certificates’ for same-sex couples, but not every ward recognises them.
According to The Japan Times, Koike said that the decision to make the certificates more widely available is in response to many calls from Tokyo residents and LGBTQ+ activists to introduce a system that recognises same-sex couples. The governor was quoted saying that the system would ‘help alleviate problems in daily life and promote the understanding of gender diversity in Tokyo.’
More detail on Tokyo’s same-sex partnership system is expected to be announced by April 2022, but it is unlikely the Tokyo-wide system will provide de facto same-sex marriage rights. While there are currently five Japanese prefectures, including Osaka and Ibaraki, that have introduced the partnership ordinance, their partnership systems do not grant same-sex couples with all the same benefits as married couples. Furthermore, the partnership certificates are not legally binding.
Still, with a recent ruling from the Sapporo District Court that declared the denial of same-sex marriage to be unconstitutional, there’s good reason to believe that the possibility of same-sex marriage in Japan isn’t too far out of reach.
This is a developing story and will be updated as more information becomes available.
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