At least 93 foreigners residing in Japan were granted permission to bring their same-sex spouses to the country under a special visa between 2013 and 2020, the first such government survey showed Friday.
The spouse of the foreigner with residential status, both from countries where same-sex marriage is recognized, was permitted to stay in Japan under a "designated activities" status of residence, which is granted in consideration of individual circumstances, according to the Immigration Services Agency of Japan.
With the institutionalization of same-sex marriage accelerating overseas since the 2000s, the Japanese government in October 2013 began to allow foreigners with residential status to bring their same-sex partner to Japan based on "humanitarian reasons."
In order to be eligible, the couple must both be nationals of countries where same-sex marriage is recognized. However, the same visa cannot be used to grant residence status to a partner of a Japanese national, an inconsistency which is likely to spark debate.
Under the current system, a foreigner who marries a Japanese national of the opposite sex is eligible for a spousal visa, and foreigners who move to Japan can bring their opposite-sex husband or wife under a dependent family visa.
On March 17, the Sapporo District Court made history when it became the first court to rule that the government's failure to recognize same-sex marriage is unconstitutional as it violates the right to equality. Japan is the only Group of Seven country that has not legalized same-sex marriage.
At a House of Councillors committee meeting in November 2018, then Foreign Minister Taro Kono criticized the current system as "clearly off," saying he would raise the issue about Japanese nationals not being able to bring their same-sex spouse to Japan with the Justice Ministry. However, no revisions to the law have been made to date.
When asked about the ministry's response on Monday, Justice Minister Yoko Kamikawa simply stated, "I would like to listen to various opinions and consider what we can do."
Twenty-nine countries and territories, including the Netherlands, the United States, South Africa and Taiwan, recognize same-sex marriage, according to Tokyo-based campaign group Marriage for All Japan.