Author: Yamaguchi Mari
Tokyo (Associated Press)-Japan’s Supreme Court ruled on June 23 that the law requiring married couples to have the same surname was constitutional, dismissing the challenge of three couples seeking to retain their original names.
The decision to uphold the 2015 Supreme Court ruling has disappointed human rights defenders who say these laws violate the Constitution’s guarantees of gender equality because women almost always sacrifice their surnames.
The three couples questioned the provisions of the Civil Law and the Family Registration Law after they were unable to register their marriage with the local government agency using different surnames.
As the 15-member Supreme Court made this decision, Japan is facing a call to accept diversity in gender, family, and sexual behavior. Public opinion is increasingly supporting the option of allowing couples to keep different last names.
According to Article 750 of the Civil Code, couples must adopt the “husband or wife’s last name” when they get married. Although the law does not specify a surname, 96% of women follow their husband’s surname. As more and more women pursue careers, more and more women are trying to continue to use their maiden surnames at work, while using registered surnames in legal documents.
In Japanese tradition, women marry their husband’s family. This is the concept of marriage supported by the Civil Code of 1898.
The court recognized in the ruling that the people who change their surnames are usually women, and they may feel the loss of their status and face other disadvantages, but said it is still possible to continue to use their maiden surnames informally.
Some companies and government departments now allow female employees to continue to use their maiden names at work.
The 2015 Supreme Court ruling urged the parliament to discuss the issue of surnames instead of issuing legal judgments, but due to opposition from conservative members of the Liberal Democratic Party of Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga, parliamentary deliberations stalled.
They support traditional gender roles and paternalistic family systems, believing that allowing different surnames to choose will undermine family unity and affect children.
The Yoshihide Suga government will also postpone the goal of allowing women to hold 30% of decision-making positions in companies and government departments from March 2020 to the late 2020s, and exclude the promise of allowing the use of different surnames as part of efforts to promote gender equality.
During the Yoshihide Suga administration, the equal rights legislation for sexual minorities was also abolished due to opposition from his political party.