Monday, December 6, 2021

Japan’s SC rules that laws requiring married couples to have same surname are constitutional

Japan’s Supreme Court ruled that laws requiring married couples to have the same surname are constitutional, dismissing a challenge by three couples seeking to keep their original names.

The decision to affirm a 2015 Supreme Court ruling was a major disappointment for rights activists who say the laws violate the constitution’s guarantee of gender equality since women almost always sacrifice their surnames.

The three couples challenged provisions of the Civil Code and the family registration law after they were unable to register their marriages at local government offices using separate surnames.

The decision by the Supreme Court’s 15-member grand bench of yesterday comes as Japan is faced with calls to accept diversity in gender, family and sexuality.

Under Article 750 of the Civil Code, a couple must adopt the surname of the husband or wife at the time of marriage. Although the law does not specify which name, 96 per cent of women adopt their husbands’ surnames.

As more women pursue careers, an increasing number seek to keep using their maiden names at work, while using their registered surnames in legal documents.

In its ruling, the court acknowledged that those who change their surnames are usually women and they could feel a loss of identity and face other disadvantages, but said that continued informal use of their maiden names is possible.

Some companies and government offices now allow female employees to keep using their maiden names at work.

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