Global Citizen is a community of people like you

People who want to learn about and take action on the world’s biggest challenges. Extreme poverty ends with you.

Citizenship

Same-Sex Couples Seek Marriage Equality in Japan With Valentine's Day Lawsuits


Why Global Citizens Should Care
The UN is committed to reducing inequalities in all nations by 2030. Thirteen same-sex couples in Japan are fighting for their constitutional right to receive marriage rights. You can join us in taking action on this issue here

Thirteen same-sex couples across Japan are fighting to legalize their love this Valentine’s Day.

They filed lawsuits on Thursday demanding the right to get married in the country, which currently bans same-sex couples from receiving equal marriage rights, BBC reports. The lawsuit argues that Japan’s current restrictions violate their constitutional rights. 

Take Action: Break Down Gender Stereotypes with Sesame Street

Same-sex marriage technically isn’t illegal in Japan, as some cities started issuing partnership certificates to same-sex couples in 2015. But marriage rights — such as inheritance rights, visitation rights during health emergencies, and spousal visas — only apply to heterosexual couples. Lawyers representing the plaintiffs said this is at odds with other parts of the constitution that guarantee equality.

Embed from Getty Images

The couples are seeking damages of $9,000 per person for being denied the same legal rights as heterosexual couples, according to the Guardian. 

One couple, Chizuka Oe and Yoko Ogawa, who have been together for 25 years, were denied marriage registration at a Tokyo town hall because they are both women, they told the Guardian. 

“Why don’t we even have the simple choice of whether or not to get married?” asked Ogawa.

Another couple suing the Japanese government — Ai Nakajima, 40, from Japan, and 31-year old Tina Baumann, from Germany — told the BBC many of their same-sex friends hide their partners from friends and family. Japanese society is traditionally very socially conservative, but the younger generation supports same-sex marriage, Nakajima explained.  A survey in January found nearly 80% of Japanese aged 20 to 59 support legalizing same-sex marriage, according to the Guardian. 

"The pressure to follow a conservative family model, in which heterosexual couples are supposed to marry and have children, is still strong," lawmaker Mizuho Fukushima explained to AP.

Read More: These Rainbow Headscarves Are Making a Bold Statement About Marriage Equality

LGBTQ rights activists pointed out that Japan is the only member of the Group of Seven countries (G7), a group of nations with the largest advanced economies in the world, that doesn’t recognize same-sex unions. 

Japanese culture hasn’t always objected same-sex partnerships. Prejudices only arrived in the country as a result of western ideals during 19th-century industrialization and modernization, according to Japan Today. 

Activists anticipate the same-sex unions won’t be acknowledged overnight but lawyers representing the case told the Guardian they’re hopeful legislative change is on the way.