Ken Hasebe, mayor of Tokyo’s Shibuya Ward, announced Friday that the ward will start accepting applications Wednesday to issue certificates of recognition for same-sex partnerships, a landmark step for the city to protect the rights of sexual minorities.
At a news conference in Shibuya, Hasebe said the ward, known as a mecca of youth culture, on Nov. 5 will start issuing certificates for same-sex couples to guarantee status equivalent to marriage.
Applicants must be residents of Shibuya Ward who are aged 20 or older. They are required to fill in a notarized deed to declare that each will act as a guardian for their partner during their time living together within the ward. They also have to fill out a document promising they will live together with love and trust.
The ordinance is a long-awaited achievement for Hasebe, who campaigned to enact the diversity legislation, which passed the ward assembly in March when he was an assembly member. Hasebe became mayor in April after winning the mayoral race.
“To be honest, I feel a bit relieved,” Hasebe said. But he also noted this is just a small step to challenge the bigger issues that members of sexual minorities find themselves facing today.
“I believe this policy will indeed benefit sexual minority people who have partners. …But for many youths who belong to sexual minorities, education about the matter at school still faces enormous issues,” Hasebe said.
“I believe this issue is not about sexual minorities themselves but rather about the change in mindset of the majority,” Hasebe added. “I hope this initiative will lead to more efforts by private firms” so that better understanding toward sexual minorities will spread in society.
The local municipality’s move to grant same-sex couples a partnership agreement in March has indeed triggered a nationwide discussion about the rights of sexual minority people.
In April, the education ministry issued a notice urging local schools to ensure that they pay greater attention to the needs of transgender students and as well give greater understanding to other sexual minorities.
Earlier this month, new education minister Hiroshi Hase, in a move to tackle the issue as a nation, told reporters he will give more support to sexual minority students at schools.
“I feel the national-level effort for same-sex partnership has already started to move,” Hasebe said.
But he also said his priority is to shepherd his goal within the ward in order to make the most out of this legislation, not to initiate a nationwide movement.