Shibuya Ward is the first place in Japan to allow same-sex couples to register their partnerships.
The changes come into effect today, although it may take some months for certificates to begin to be issued. While the leading Liberal Democratic Party opposed the changes, it was voted in by the opposition and other parties.
The certificates will grant no legal rights such as inheritance and family benefits, but it is hoped that the symbolic move will be the catalyst for change across Japan. Other areas are beginning to consider similar moves such as Yokohama and Tokyo’s Setagaya Ward.
It is also hoped the certificates will help address some aspects of discrimination, such as provision of housing, good and services. The certificates compel businesses to “make the maximum possible consideration” to same-sex couples. If businesses repeatedly discriminate against registered partners, the local government will issue recommendations that they cease to do so, on threat of “naming and shaming”.
It is also recommended that local schools raise the issue of respect for same-sex relationships. Certificates will be issued to couples who live in Shibuya Ward, are aged 20 or over and submit the necessary notarized documentation.