Japan SC Dismisses Plea To Retain Original Surnames For Married Couples

Japan married couple surname, Japan SC on Original Surnames
Japan married couple surname: Japan’s top court again ruled that legal provisions requiring married couples to share the same surname are constitutional. On Wednesday, upholding a judgment from 2015, the Supreme court dismissed a challenge by three couples seeking to keep their original surnames.

The ruling said the SC has “found no points that should be changed from the decision in 2015, even as it takes into account the changes in the society and awareness of people.”

However, the recent decision came as a major disappointment for rights activists who claim that the laws violate the constitution’s guarantee of gender equality as women mostly have to give up their surnames after marriage.

The three couples challenged the more than century-old provision based on the Civil Code and the family register law in 2018 after local governments refused to accept their marriage registrations.

The decision by the Supreme Court’s 15-member grand bench comes as the country is currently faced with calls to accept diversity in gender, family and sexuality. Although, public opinion is increasingly in favour of an option to allow married couples to keep separate surnames.

However, under Article 750 of the Civil Code, a couple must adopt which name after marriage isn’t specific. As of 2015, 96 per cent of women adopt their husbands’ surnames.

The 2015 Japan Supreme court ruling said the practice of sharing a surname was “well-established in society” and there is no gender inequality in the system.

Meanwhile, five justices, including all three women, said prohibiting separate surnames was unconstitutional, while addressing the disadvantages involved in changing a name. An increasing number of women pursuing careers intend to keep their maiden names at work, while using their registered surnames in legal documents.

On the other hand, many companies and public offices now allow female employees to retain their maiden names at work. Also, the government is, reportedly, expanding the scope of official documents that show maiden names in addition to registered surnames.

The 2015 Supreme Court ruling urged parliament to discuss the surname issue instead of issuing a legal judgement, but parliamentary deliberation has stalled because of opposition by conservative members of Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga’s Liberal Democratic Party. The party, which believes in a paternalistic family system and traditional gender roles, argued that the option to keep original surnames would destroy family unity and affect children.

Moreover, Suga’s government also postponed a target having women in 30 percent of decision-making positions at companies and government offices from March 2020 to later in the 2020s.

Due to his party’s opposition, equal rights legislation for sexual minorities was also scrapped.

Featured Image: The Japan Times