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Hopes are high among LGBTQ people for the Tokyo Metropolitan Government’s plan to introduce a same-sex partnership system in fiscal 2022, which starts in April.

Although such systems have already been adopted by 130 local governments in Japan, “Tokyo’s introduction will have a significant effect,” a person concerned said.

Satoko Nagamura (right), who has made use of a 'familyship' system in Tokyo's Adachi Ward, poses for a photo with her partner in April. | SATOKO NAGAMURA / VIA KYODO
Satoko Nagamura (right), who has made use of a ‘familyship’ system in Tokyo’s Adachi Ward, poses for a photo with her partner in April. | SATOKO NAGAMURA / VIA KYODO

Same-sex partnership systems allow same-sex partners to be recognized as equivalent to married couples and obtain certificates to that effect, making them eligible for such things as family-use housing facilities.

In November 2015, Tokyo’s Shibuya and Setagaya wards were the first in the country to introduce such systems.

According to a joint survey released in October by Shibuya Ward and Nijiiro Diversity, a nonprofit organization based in the city of Osaka, 125 municipalities and the prefectures of Ibaraki, Gunma, Mie, Osaka and Saga had same-sex partnership systems.

In the survey, the population coverage rate of same-sex partnership systems came to 41.1%. Tokyo’s introduction is expected to raise the rate to nearly 50%.

“We are considering a system that is easy to use for the people concerned,” a Tokyo Metropolitan Government official said.

The metropolitan government plans to design its same-sex partnership system based on the existing systems of other prefectures and 12 municipalities in Tokyo.

For example, Osaka Prefecture’s system, launched in 2020, allows its certificates to be used in municipalities in the prefecture that endorse the system. Furthermore, certificates issued by municipalities that had introduced similar systems earlier can be used when applying to live in prefecture-run housing facilities.

An official of Tokyo’s Adachi Ward, which began its same-sex partnership system in 2021, said cooperation between local governments is necessary in order to gather support from real estate, medical and other industries.

More than 10 Tokyo municipalities with same-sex partnership systems have organized a network to exchange opinions.

The metropolitan government’s introduction “will have a great impact and be a step forward in promoting understanding of such systems nationwide,” the Adachi Ward official said.

Adachi Ward is also one of a few local governments in Japan to have adopted a “familyship” system to recognize parent-child relationships between same-sex couples and children living with them.

Under the system, Satoko Nagamura, 38, a senior official of Kodomap, a Shinjuku Ward-based support group for LGBTQ people and their families, pledged to live with her child and her partner as a family.

“Everyone can live comfortably in communities showing supportive attitudes,” Nagamura said.

Tokyo’s introduction of a same-sex partnership system “will hopefully prompt other prefectures and the national government” to work on the issue, Nagamura also said.

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