The city of Chiba in Japan will start issuing partnership certificates for LGBTI couples as of next April.
This is part of Japan’s partnership oath system, which allows same-sex couples to register their relationship with their local municipal government.
While the partnership certificates do not carry the same legal rights as heterosexual relationships, they are in place to give same-sex couples greater rights and recognition.
They also designed help same-sex couples with bureaucratic hurdles, such as registering their accommodation or visiting their partners at a hospital.
Chiba is just another in a growing number of Japan’s municipalities to recognize LGBTI couples with partnership certificates.
Tokyo’s Shibuya and Setagaya wards were the first local governments to issue the certificates in 2015.
A number of cities across the country soon began following their example, including Sapporo, Fukuoka, Osaka, Iga, Takarazuka, and Naha.
Chiba will be Japan’s first municipality not to limit the recognition of LGBTI couples.
The only requirement for applicants is that ‘both people are at least 20 years old, without a spouse, and either lives or plans to live in the city,’ Japan Today reports.
‘We will create a foundation where people can live the way they want to,’ said Chiba’s mayor, Toshihito Kumagai said.
He also expressed hope that Chiba’s example would help people in Japan to better understand LGBTI relationships.
Ongoing political controversy
Japan was widely hailed by LGBTI when the country introduced the partnership certificates.
However, in recent months LGBTI rights in Japan have been in the headlines for very different reasons.
Last month, Japanese MP Mio Sugita of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) caused a controversy when she called people in same-sex relationships ‘unproductive’ in a magazine article.
Her comments caused outrage among Japan’s LGBTI communities.
A petition demanding an apology gained over 25,000 signatures, and a protest was staged outside the headquarters of the ruling party. The LDP later distanced themselves from the MP’s comments.
Her fellow Japanese lawmaker, Tom Tanigawa, also faced condemnation for his comments on LGBTI rights. Last month, Tanigawa said same-sex relationships were ‘like a hobby’.