TSU, HYOGO PREF. - The city of Iga in Mie Prefecture is set to start issuing certificates recognizing same-sex partnerships as being equivalent to marriage from next April to address discrimination against sexual minorities, Iga Mayor Sakae Okamoto said Friday.
The city will follow Shibuya and Setagaya wards in Tokyo, which became Japan’s first and second local governments to introduce the certificate system in November. As of Friday, a total of 16 same-sex couples have received papers from the two wards.
The city of Takarazuka in Hyogo Prefecture, meanwhile, has said it will start issuing papers authenticating partnership oaths by same-sex couples in June.
Okamoto said he instructed city officials to visit Takarazuka to learn about its plan and compile guidelines by the end of March on issuing partnership certificates.
Iga, which has hosted forums by sexual minorities, is planning to treat same-sex and heterosexual couples equally at hospitals and apartments run by the municipal government and ask for the cooperation of private companies, such as real estate agencies.
People in same-sex relationships often face discrimination when looking for housing or visiting partners in hospitals.
Okamoto referred to an online survey conducted by ad giant Dentsu Inc. in April that found 7.6 percent, or one in every 13, of some 70,000 people polled identified themselves as a member of Japan’s lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community.
“In Iga with a population of about 95,000, more than 6,000 people belong to” the LGBT community, the mayor said. “It is our role to create a society in which sexual minorities can proudly live.”
Same-sex marriages are not legally allowed in Japan and such couples say they face disadvantages, such as inability to inherit property from partners without a will or benefit from income tax deductions for spouses.