Skip to main content

Home News News World

Japan court says ban on gay marriage is a human rights violation

Four same-sex couples were campaigning for the same-sex marriage ban to be considered unconstitutional.

By Emily Maskell

same-sex marriage
Same-sex marriage case dismissed in Japanese court (Image: Pexels)

A court in Tokyo, Japan has declared a ban on same-sex marriage a violation of human rights but still upheld the law in a compensation case brought forward by four couples claiming it was discriminatory.

Currently, Japan is the only G7 nation that does not recognise same-sex marriage; the country’s constitution defines marriage as based on the mutual consent of both sexes.

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

In Wednesday’s (30 November) ruling, the Tokyo district court dismissed the case and said the ban was constitutional but added that preventing gay couples from the legal right to marry was irrational and infringed their human rights.

The eight individuals involved were claiming one million yen ($7,200; £6,000) for damages and the infringement of their human rights.

“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…, [the court] also said that the current situation with no legal protections for same-sex families is not good, suggesting something must be done about it,” he explained.

In Japan, same-sex couples aren’t allowed to inherit each other’s assets and are denied parental rights to each other’s children, even hospital visits can pose difficulties. 

Gon Matsunaka, head of the activist group Marriage for All Japan, shared the ruling was “hard to accept.”

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

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

This latest ruling comes after Singapore lifted a ban on gay sex, but limited prospects of legalising same-sex marriage.

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

There are two further cases pending in Japan, activists and lawmakers hope judicial decisions supporting same-sex marriage will encourage lawmakers to also push for this change.