Tokyo is Next in Line to Recognize Same-Sex Partnerships

We’re only one step up a long, long ladder of receiving the same basic rights as heterosexual couples

Tokyo has announced it will start recognizing same-sex partnerships. However, this won’t come with the same rights that married couples receive. The country’s LGBTQ+ community often face discrimiation at work, school, and at home. Although support for sexual diversity has slowly grown in Japan, sadly, legal protections are still lacking.

According to a recent survey, the Japanese public largely supports same-sex marrige, with 65% in favor. However, the conservative Liberal Democratic Party—who has been in power for most of the past seven decades—hasn’t made any progress on the issue.

Tokyo governor Yuriko Koike made a pledge in December last year to implement a same-sex partnership system by April 2023. The Tokyo metropolitan government disclosed a draft plan on May 10th, 2022 to accept registrations starting in October. To ease the continuous hardships faced by residents in their daily lives, same-sex couples in Tokyo will be granted certificates proving their partnership status when applying for government and private-sector services. The Tokyo government said applicants will be limited to adult residents of the capital, but will include foreign nationals.  

Although the move is a significant step forward, the recognition of same-sex partnerships is still different to a marriage certificate, because it won’t give them the same legal rights offered to heterosexual married couples.

The main purpose of the change is to promote the awareness of sexual diversity among residences of Tokyo, in order to reduce inconveniences in daily lives and to create more equal conditions. In 2015, Tokyo’s Shibuya district became the first Japanese municipality to issue non-legally binding partnership certificates to same-sex couples. According to advocacy groups, about 200 other municipalities across Japan have taken similar steps. Last year, the Sapporo district court ruled that Japan’s failure to recognize same-sex marriage is unconstitutional.

The only nation in Asia that has legalized same-sex marriage is Taiwan. This is proof that Asia is still lagging far behind in terms of LGBTQ+ rights, and there’s a great deal of work to be done. There remains a long battle ahead of us—but we have to get there.