October 19, 2018

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Japanese women in court to challenge change of name law

Japanese women in court to challenge change of name law

Five women are suing the government of Japan over a law requiring spouses to adopt the same surname.

The women say the law is unconstitutional and violates married couples’ civil rights, and are demanding compensation.

“By losing your surname … you’re being made light of, you’re not respected … It’s as if part of your self vanishes,” said  a translator and one of the five women involved in the lawsuit.

A decision by the supreme court, due on 16 December, coincides with prime minister Shinzo Abe’s push to draw more women into a shrinking workforce. Despite that, many in his conservative ruling party are opposed to any legal change.

An 1896 law says spouses must adopt the same surname to legally register their marriage. The law does not specify which one, but in practice, 96% of women take their husband’s name, a reflection of Japan’s male-dominated society.

Conservatives say allowing couples to choose whether they share the same surname or not could damage family ties and threaten society. Read more

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