Gay parade held in Japan amid calls for same-sex marriage

AFP , Sunday 26 Apr 2015

Some 3,000 people marched in a gay pride parade in Tokyo on Sunday as calls grow for Japan to legalise same-sex marriage after a lesbian couple held a symbolic wedding ceremony.

The crowd, mainly from the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community as well as their supporters and sex workers, paraded through the capital's entertainment and shopping district of Shibuya.

Waving rainbow-coloured flags and banners, foreign and Japanese campaigners marched in colourful carnival and kimono-clad "geisha" outfits.

The annual parade came a week after a lesbian couple tied the knot in front of some 80 relatives and friends in Shibuya, although their marriage is not legally recognised.

The Shibuya district council voted earlier this year to issue "partnership" certificates to gay couples, the first such recognition of same-sex unions in Japan. Other municipalities are now considering doing the same.

The certificate will carry only symbolic significance, since the Japanese constitution identifies marriage as a union based on mutual consent of the parties from "both sexes".

"We simply want to be with a loved one," said Fumino Sugiyama, 33, one of the parade organisers. "But (the law) denies our idea. We are frustrated and don't know what to do."

While Japan is largely tolerant of homosexuality, there is no specific legal protection for gay people. They complain that they may be prevented from visiting sick loved ones in hospitals or refused a tenancy because their relationship is not recognised.

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