Statement Calling for Early Revision of Discriminatory Provisions in Family-Related Legislation
Fourteen years ago, the Legislative Council of the Ministry of Justice proposed the modification of family-related legislation in order to allow each spouse to retain the use of his or her original surname after marriage and to eliminate discrimination against children born out of wedlock, particularly with regard to their inheritance rights. However, the said modifications have yet to be realized.
Under present circumstances, many women have no choice but to change their surnames to those of their husbands after marriage and thereby bear various disadvantages in their professional and private lives. Among the ranks of advanced countries, only Japan requires married couples to have the same surname. Allowing all people to use their original surnames as their identity is a choice of lifestyle and should be fully respected in line with the Constitution.
According to a survey conducted by the Cabinet Office in 2006, among those respondents under sixty years of age, the number of those supporting the introduction of a dual-surname system outnumbered those in opposition. In addition, surveys conducted by several newspaper companies after September 2009 have also shown the existence of more supporters for a dual-surname system than opponents. The government and the Diet should sincerely accept such public opinions.
In addition, it has become a mainstream opinion of international society that any discrimination against children born out of wedlock in regard to their right to inherit should be abolished. Such discrimination finds its basis in a situation which was neither caused by the fault of nor can be changed by the child’s will or effort and is in clear violation of Articles 13, 14, and 24-Item 2 of the Constitution. The Supreme Court has also reiterated its stance that such discrimination in inheritance should be eliminated.
Furthermore, the prohibition from remarrying for a stipulated period of time, which only applies to women, has already been proven groundless due to advancements in the fields of science and technology. Additionally, the minimum ages for men and women to marry (the current provision provides for different minimum marriage ages for men and women, being 18 years old and 16 years old respectively) should be unified in order to conform to Article 14 of the Constitution.
Since 1993, various UN committees have recommended that the Japanese government revise its family-related legislation. In particular, the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women in 2009 strongly recommended that the Japanese government place top priority on immediately modifying its family related legislation and provide, within two years, detailed written information on the implementation of the recommendations.
The Japan Federation of Bar Associations urges the Diet to remove any and all discriminatory provisions from its family-related legislation this session and at the same time to bring about the introduction of a dual-surname system.
February 26, 2010
Japan Federation of Bar Associations