Some 349 couples in Japan have registered for partnership certificates designed to recognize same-sex couples.
Japan’s largely conservative society does not allow same-sex marriage.
Local LGBTI organization Nijiro surveyed the 11 municipalities that recognize same-sex couples with partnership certificates.
The certificates give couples limited recognition in government hospitals and housing. Some large companies also recognize the certificates to offer the same spousal discounts given to straight couples.
Setagaya ward in Tokyo, which was one of the first places to offer certificates in 2015, saw the most registrations with 81, according to Nijiro.
The city of Osaka also registered 79 couples. Chiba, which began issuing certificates last month, meanwhile, has already had 7 couples register.
But, four of the municipalities also allow opposite-sex couples to register, so not all of the 349 couples may be same-sex.
Lawyer for the Marriage For All Japan group, Takeharu Kato, said 349 was not a considerable amount compared to the nine million people that live in those areas.
‘The partnership system is playing great roles in making LGBTQ people and their life visible and promoting public acceptance, but the influences are limited because it does not have any legal privileges’ Kato said.
Fight for marriage equality
This month, same-sex couples in Japan will launch the country’s greatest ever bid for marriage equality.
Thirteen couples and their lawyers will file lawsuits in four different cities against the government on 14 February.
They are seeking compensation from the government after it rejected their marriage application. The couples will, therefore, argue the government’s position on same-sex marriage is unconstitutional.
Currently, there is no nationwide legislation to protect LGBTI people from discrimination based on their sexuality or gender identity.
‘Many of LGBTQ couples are still afraid of public exposure and the partnership system is not so practical as to persuade them to go to the city office to receive the certificate’ Kato said.
‘That is why same-sex marriage must be recognized’.
‘Marriage is a fundamental right under the constitution, and this should be applied to same-sex couples’ Kato said.
‘It’s unfair that same-sex couples are not able to enjoy the rights given to heterosexual couples,’ he also said.