Same-sex partnerships will now be officially recognized in Sapporo, Japan, making it the first major city in the country to do so.
Under the mandate, Sapporo, located in the far north of the island country, will recognize partnerships between lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender couples, Kyodo News reports. It will also certify partnerships between heterosexual couples with gender-identity disorder, making it the first municipality in Japan to enact such a law.
"I am delighted," a 32-year-old woman said after her same-sex partnership was recognized by the system. "I was finally able to do it. It may be self-satisfaction but I want other people to use the system without caring what people around them think as they can become happy."
Same-sex couples in Sapporo will now sign partnership vows, which enable them to collect life insurance and use family member discounts for services, such as mobile phone plans. The partnership vow document, however, does not grant legal rights or obligations.
In March, Japan updated its national bullying prevention policy to protect LGBT students, Human Rights Watch reported. The Basic Policy for the Prevention of Bullying now requires schools to prevent the bullying of students based on their sexual orientation or gender identity by "promot[ing] proper understanding of teachers on… sexual orientation/gender identity as well as mak[ing] sure to inform on the school’s necessary measures regarding this matter."
"Japan’s new policy on bullying is an important step toward ensuring equal access to education for all Japanese children," Kanae Doi, Japan director at Human Rights Watch, said. "The government is demonstrating leadership in educating and empowering teachers to protect LGBT students."
Human Rights Watch found in 2016 that Japanese LGBT students encounter physical and verbal abuse, harassment, and frequent insults from their peers and school staff. The organization's report also found that teachers were ill-equipped to deal with LGBT-specific bullying, and that students who asked for protection from harassment over their sexual orientation or gender identity were given inadequate support.
Human Rights Watch continues to call on Japan to amend its Act on Special Treatments for Persons with Gender Identity Disorder, which regulates legal recognition of transgender people, because it contends that the law violates fundamental human rights protections. For example, transgender people must obtain a medical disorder diagnosis and other medical procedures, including sterilization, in order to be medically recognized according to their gender identity.