Japan falls behind its peers in the Group of Seven when it comes to embracing diversity. It is the only G7 nation that bans same-sex marriage, though opinion polls show that more than 60 percent
of the public is in favor of the change.
The Japanese LGBTQ community had some reason to celebrate
on Oct. 11, though. The Tokyo metropolitan government began accepting online applications from LGBTQ couples to recognize “oaths of partnership” and will start issuing recognition certificates from Nov. 1, reports Nikkei Asia
. The system applies to transgender and non-binary individuals as well as same-sex couples, but it is not legally binding.
Certification will be available from Nov. 1. Couples who obtain a certificate under the system will be able to apply for public housing and be briefed on their partner’s medical condition at municipal hospitals. Applicants with a child can include their child’s name on their certificate.
Mamiko Moda, who is raising a 10-month-old baby with her female partner, told Kyodo News
, “Now we will be able to use the certificate to prove our relationship as a family at hospitals during an emergency. That will give us peace of mind.”
Soshi Matsuoka, the head of Fair, an LGBTQ rights organization in Tokyo, welcomed the “extremely positive” development in Tokyo. However, advocates still want marriage equality. “Partnership is not enough,” Matsuoka said in a Bloomberg report
. “We basically want legal marriage.”
The introduction of the system in Tokyo is still significant, as the policies in the capital city have a bigger impact because it accounts for more than 10 percent of Japan’s 125 million population. Last June, the Tokyo prefectural government passed a bill recognizing same-sex partnership agreements, reports Al Jazeera
. This led to more than half of Japan’s population being covered by such agreements.
Critics say that opposition in the conservative ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) is “condemning same-sex couples to a life as second-class citizens,” reports the Guardian
. Last September, Noboru Watanabe, an LDP assemblyman in Aichi Prefecture, called same-sex marriage “disgusting” in an online post — and was forced to apologize
for the discriminatory comment early this month.