TOKYO (AFP) – A Tokyo district announced Thursday that it plans to issue “partnership” certificates to gay couples, becoming the first Japanese municipality to recognise same sex units – albeit only symbolically.
The Shibuya district – a crowded business hub that hosts many international firms and embassies, along with trendy fashion houses, cafes and schools – said it planned to draft an ordinance designed to foster diversity and equality.
“We have decided to issue the ‘partnership certificate’ as part of our drive to create a society that respects people regarded as a sexual minority,” Shibuya mayor Toshitake Kuwahara told a press conference.
The semi-autonomous locality, often translated as “ward” in English, has 217,000 residents, including nearly 10,000 foreigners.
The municipality has heard from local residents and workers that gay couples often have difficulty renting apartments and are stopped by hospitals from visiting loved ones because they do not have officially recognised family relationships, said a Shibuya official in charge of drafting the legislation.
“We will call on local bodies like businesses and hospitals to honour the wishes of these couples,” he told AFP.
The certificate will only carry symbolic significance, as the Japanese constitution identifies marriage as a union based on mutual consent of the parties from “both sexes”.