Tokyo will soon recognise same-sex partnerships, making it the largest Japanese city to do so.
The reforms will come into effect from April 2022, though it remains unclear if it will give gay couples the same rights that married couples get in the country.
The city’s governor, Yuriko Koike, explained that Tokyo would implement a system that would recognise gay partnerships as equal to marriage after the Tokyo Metropolitan Assembly unanimously agreed that it was time for recognition.
On 7 December, Koike said: “In response to the wishes of Tokyo residents and those concerned by this issue, we will draft a basic principle to recognise same-sex partnerships this fiscal year.”
Pressure on Japan’s national government has been growing in recent years as it continues to be the only G7 nation to not legally recognise same-sex marriage.
Despite this, more than 100 local authorities in the country do recognise certain rights for gay couples, such as joint names on rental contracts.
A survey by public broadcaster NHK showed 57% of people approved of gay marriage being legalised.
Although more details are yet to be announced, LGBTQ+ campaigners in the region have criticised the move for not giving “the same legal effect as marriage.”
In a Twitter thread on 7 December, activist group Marriage for All Japan wrote: “However, the partnership system does not have the same legal effect as marriage. The government should hurry up and legalise marriage nationally!”
A number of MPs in Japan’s socially conservative ruling Liberal Democratic Party have been homophobic in the past and expressed a lack of support for gay marriage, which has been seen as a key factor in it not yet being legalised there.
In addition, Japan’s constitution says: “Marriage shall be only with the mutual consent of both sexes.”
It is yet to be amended since its introduction after the Second World War in 1947 and remains the oldest unamended constitution of any nation.
Masa Yanagisawa, a board member of Marriage for All Japan, said: “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.”
東京都、同性パートナー制導入へ 22年度内に、小池知事表明 | 2021/12/7 – 共同通信 https://t.co/OrqDtEom8L
— Marriage For All Japan – 結婚の自由をすべての人に マリフォー (@marriage4all_) December 7, 2021