Sapporo in Hokkaido will be the largest city in Japan to officially recognise same-sex relationships.
As of June this year, same-sex couples over the age of 20 will be welcome to apply for “partnership vows” from the local government, who will issue a receipt and a copy of the vow to the couples.
It will enable couples to become recipients of each other’s life insurance money, and allow access to discounts for couples on things like phone contracts.
The program was initially planned to be introduced in April, but was held off to allow a period for public understanding. Around 1,500 people expressed positive opinions welcoming the program.
While there isn’t a heavy homophobic history in Japan, JapanToday reports that many opposing same-sex relationships do so out of fear that recognising them would encourage the already declining birth rate.
In April 2015, Shibuya ward in Tokyo became the first place in Japan to recognise same-sex relationships as equivalent to marriage. While others wards followed suit, Sapporo will be the first major city to do the same.
Last year, a report from the Human Rights Watch claimed that the Japanese government is failing to protect its LGBT+ students from bullying and harassment at school.
Kanae Doi, Japan Director at HRW, said: “The Japanese government has made gestures of support to LGBT students in recent years, but national anti-bullying policies remain silent on sexual orientation and gender identity.”
Words Bonnie Hines