scorecardresearch
Saturday, Feb 04, 2023
Advertisement

Japan court upholds ban on same-sex marriage but voices rights concern

Japan is the only G7 nation that does not allow same-sex marriage, and its constitution defines marriage as based on the mutual consent of both sexes.

A supporter holds a banner where the two characters on it read "Unconstitutional", outside the court after hearing the ruling on same-sex marriage, in Tokyo, Japan, November 30, 2022 (REUTERS)

A Tokyo court upheld a ban on same-sex marriage on Wednesday but said a lack of legal protection for same-sex families violated their human rights, a comment welcomed by plaintiffs as a step towards aligning Japan with other G7 nations.

Japan is the only G7 nation that does not allow same-sex marriage, and its constitution defines marriage as based on the mutual consent of both sexes.

Although Prime Minister Fumio Kishida’s ruling party has revealed no plans yet to review the matter or propose changes, several senior members support same-sex marriage.

In Wednesday’s ruling, the Tokyo district court said the ban was constitutional, but added that the absence of a legal system to protect same-sex families infringed their human rights.

Subscriber Only Stories
Anti-science movement is political but medicine also hasn’t conveyed its ...
In Jharkhand’s tribal villages, an online marketplace for local produce
Delhi Confidential: Mansukh Mandaviya gives a shout out to youngest Mitra
Moscow’s proposal to RBI: Set up Russian financial firm in India, w...

“This is actually a fairly positive ruling,” said Nobuhito Sawasaki, one of the lawyers involved in the case.

“While marriage remains between a man and a woman, and the ruling supported that, it also said that the current situation with no legal protections for same-sex families is not good, and suggested something must be done about it,” he told Reuters.

Japan does not permit same-sex couples to marry or inherit each other’s assets, such as a shared home, and denies them parental rights to each other’s children, while even hospital visits can be difficult.

Advertisement

Though partnership certificates from municipalities cover about 60% of Japan’s population, they do not give same-sex couples the same rights enjoyed by heterosexual couples.

The Tokyo ruling promises to be influential as the capital has an outsized influence on the rest of Japan.

It had been keenly awaited after hopes were raised by a 2021 ruling in the city of Sapporo that the ban was unconstitutional, although another decision in Osaka in June upheld the ban.

Advertisement

The eight plaintiffs in the case said the ban contravened their human rights and demanded damages of 1 million yen, although the court rejected that.

“This is hard to accept,” said Gon Matsunaka, head of the activist group Marriage for All Japan.

Both heterosexual and same-sex couples should be able to benefit equally from the system of marriage, as everyone is equal under the law, he added.

“It (the ruling) clearly said that is not possible.”

Yet the recognition that same-sex families lacked legal protections was “a big step”, he said.

ENCOURAGING STEP

The plaintiffs, who unfurled a banner outside the courthouse reading, “A step forward for Marriage Equality” after the ruling, said they were encouraged.

Advertisement

“There were parts of this that were disappointing, but parts of it gave me hope,” said one of them, Katsu, who gave only his first name.

The decision came a day after the U.S. Senate passed a same-sex marriage protection bill and Singapore lifted a ban on gay sex but limited the prospects for legalising same-sex marriage.

Advertisement

Two more cases are pending in Japan, and activists and lawyers hope an accumulation of judicial decisions supporting same-sex marriage will eventually push lawmakers to change the system, even if this is unlikely soon.

“I hope there will be legislative debate about this,” said plaintiff Shizuka Oe. “We will keep making efforts.”

Advertisement

The situation has limited the talent pool for global firms, as groups such as the American Chamber of Commerce in Japan have pointed out, calling for change.

“Thinking about the future of their lives, they don’t see anything in Japan,” said Masa Yanagisawa, head of prime services at bank Goldman Sachs and a member of the group Marriage for All Japan.

“So they move to more friendly jurisdictions, like the United States.”

First published on: 30-11-2022 at 15:27 IST
Next Story

‘Good when someone works hard. But sustained efforts a must’: Amit Shah on Rahul Yatra

Latest Comment
Post Comment
Read Comments
Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement
close