By SATOMI SUGIHARA/ Staff Writer
October 16, 2020 at 18:55 JST
The national census questionnaire has an entry field for “Relationship to the householder.” (Takumi Terui)
Advocacy groups and members of the LGBT community are calling on the central government to count the number of LGBT couples in the national census so they can be accurately reflected in government policies.
Same-sex marriages are currently not legally recognized in Japan, but there are growing calls for the government to review its census data-collection methods for capturing the number of spouses, as more people publicly embrace sexual diversity.
Hisana Mamada, 29, who heads “Hareruwa,” a support group for sexual minorities in Gunma Prefecture, is a transgender man, but he is registered as a woman in the family registration system.
When filling out a questionnaire for the census, he chose “Female” in the sex category. He entered the name of his female partner who lives with him as a member of his household and selected “Spouse of householder” as her relationship to him, the householder.
“I wanted (people) to know that it’s not uncommon for couples to have the same registered sex,” Mamada said.
But the government will categorize a household member with the same sex as the householder as “Other relative(s)” in the census if their relationship to the householder is entered as spouse in the questionnaire.
Marriage for All Japan, a group calling for legalizing same-sex marriages, teamed with eight other organizations to launch a social media campaign using the hashtag “rainbow national census” to press the government to change its rigid categorization.
The organizations asked the internal affairs ministry to count the number of same-sex couples in the same way it does with common-law heterosexual couples, who are treated as spouses in a census, and then release the results.
“It’s essential to carry out a public survey (of the number of same-sex couples) so the results are reflected in government policies,” Miho Mitsunari, a vice president of Nara Women's University who specializes in gender law, said at a news conference held by Marriage for All Japan at the end of September.
The ministry conducts a national census every five years. It has extended the deadline for submitting questionnaires for this year’s census to Oct. 20, due to a low response rate.
This year’s census is the first to be conducted since many municipalities across the country introduced a civil partnership system to recognize the relationships of LGBT couples as equivalent to marriages.
The city government of Kunitachi in Tokyo is one of the municipalities that adopted the partnership system. The city assembly unanimously passed a motion calling for the government to count the number of same-sex couples living together and publish the results. It then submitted the text to the government.
Twelve municipalities and 15 heads of local governments have so far expressed support for the rainbow national census campaign.
But the ministry does not have plans to count and release the number of same-sex couples, saying their relationships are not recognized as marriages under Japanese law.
“We can’t accurately tally the number of entries where householders choose their same-sex household member as their spouse since there might be entry errors,” a ministry official said. “But it’s worth considering compiling the figure to analyze what choices are being made in the entry field.”
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