Sapporo and Osaka have made lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender couples in officially recognized partnerships eligible to receive support money if they are victims of crime, marking a rare move among municipalities in Japan, officials of the two cities said recently.
A support system for crime victims and their families was introduced in Osaka in April and in Sapporo this month. As same-sex marriage is not recognized in Japan, most people in LGBT partnerships find themselves ineligible to receive social security benefits.
The system pays surviving family members 300,000 yen ($2,800) in the event of a death by crime, and 100,000 yen to victims of assault or sexual crimes. It also subsidizes fees for services such as counselling and housekeeping for both the victim and their family.
As of Aug. 14, 223 LGBT couples have declared their partnerships in Osaka, while Sapporo has seen 102 couples do the same.
Sapporo has also made such couples eligible for the benefits if they have a notarized document or other proof of their union.
In June, the Nagoya District Court rejected a request by a man to overturn a prefectural commission's decision deeming him ineligible for victims' assistance as a surviving family member after his same-sex partner was murdered.
The ruling, which rejected the request on the basis that same-sex couples are not sufficiently accepted in society, drew criticism from LGBT supporters.
Fumiko Suda, a lawyer well-versed in legal issues faced by sexual minorities, says same-sex relationships are "already accepted in society."
"For (Osaka and Sapporo) to include same-sex partners in their system is very encouraging for the parties involved. I hope all local governments do the same," she said.