Panasonic pushes same-sex equality in Japan

The move is groundbreaking in the socially conservative nation.

Kazuhiro Nogi/AFP/Getty

Panasonic has revealed that it will recognize its employees' same-sex relationships from the start of April. The announcement was timed to coincide with the news that a third Japanese municipality will do the same -- it's the first area outside of Tokyo. You may be wondering why Panasonic's decision is newsworthy, but it's a groundbreaking move in Japan's socially conservative society. The firm is a large and respected player in the business community, and its decision could cause other tech outfits to follow suit.

As the Associated Press explains, Panasonic is a sponsor of the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, which has a clause opposing discrimination by sexual orientation by its partners. As such, the company will alter its in-house definition on what constitutes marriages and spouses in order to provide benefits such as health insurance. According to the Mainichi Shimbun, the only other tech firm that offers similar consideration to same-sex couples is IBM's Japanese arm, which pays marriage and relocation expenses.

The Verge adds that Japan has no official recognition for same-sex marriage, but two wards in Tokyo began granting certificates last year. The documents enable couples to get the same rights on hospital visitation and property renting that heterosexual pairings are entitled to. Unfortunately, this paperwork isn't valid elsewhere in the country, although let's hope that where Panasonic leads, others will follow.