Japan’s LGBT+ activists have praised Tokyo city’s decision to introduce a same-sex partnership system from April 2022, calling it a big step towards a wider acceptance of queer relationships and marriages.
The same-sex partnership system announced by Tokyo’s governor Yuriko Koike on Tuesday will allow partners to register their relationships and enjoy some of the privileges that straight couples benefit from.
People registering under this partnership will be allowed to share and rent places together and secure hospital visitation rights, the governor said.
Masa Yanagisawa, a board member of activist group Marriage for All Japan, praised the move and told Reuters that it would be a departure from the common belief that same-sex marriages violate traditional family setups.
“Some conservatives have voiced concerns that even though these partnerships are just symbolic pieces of paper, they could undermine Japanese traditions or the traditional Japanese family system. Hopefully this will be a chance to prove otherwise," Mr Yanagisawa, who is also the head of prime services Japan at Goldman Sachs, said.
While the decision is a step towards the societal acceptance of same-sex relations, activists pointed out that it still fell short of legally validating same-sex marriages.
Political reluctance may have played a part in this, pointed out Takeharu Kato, a lawyer in charge of a landmark judgement in March that declared same-sex marriages could not be termed “unconstitutional”.
A lot of ruling party lawmakers are still reluctant about widening the scope of same-sex partnerships, he told Reuters.
Marriage for All Japan, in a tweet in the Japanese language, claimed the partnership system was currently being introduced by “at least 138 local governments” adding the population coverage rate for such measures was “already over 40 per cent”.
“The country should enable [same-sex] marriage as soon as possible,” it added.
Newly-elected Japanese prime minister Fumio Kishida had also told the country’s parliament that introducing same-sex marriage needed “prudent consideration” as it would be an issue that “goes straight to the very core of how families ought to be in Japan”.
According to Japan’s constitution, the union of marriage is still based on the mutual consent of “both sexes”.
One survey by public broadcaster NHK showed 57 per cent of people approved of same-sex marriage being legalised.
Additional reporting by Reuters