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HOME  > Past issues  > 2015 December 16 - 22  > Japan’s top court rejects elimination of discriminatory civil code provisions against women
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2015 December 16 - 22 [SOCIAL ISSUES]

Japan’s top court rejects elimination of discriminatory civil code provisions against women

December 17, 2015
The Supreme Court on December 16 delivered a judgement in two lawsuits claiming that provisions in the Civil Code placing great disadvantages to women violate the Constitution which guarantees gender equality.

In one of the two lawsuits focusing on a civil code provision that forces married couples to use the same surname, 10 of 15 judges of the Supreme Court Grand Bench declared the provision as constitutional and rejected the plaintiffs’ demand for the introduction of a selective separate surname system. In another lawsuit over a legal provision imposing only on women a six-month period ban on remarriage, 13 of the 15 judges ruled that the six-month period should be shortened.

After the ruling, the plaintiffs in the lawsuit over the same-name system and their supporters held a rally at the Upper House Members’ Office building.

One of the plaintiffs, Kayama Emi referred to the increasing public demand for allowing married people to keep their own surnames, and said, “I don’t think that our legal fight was a waste of time.” Lawyer Sakakibara Fujiko, the head of the plaintiffs’ counsel, criticized the Supreme Court for making a totally out-of-date judgement. She went on to say that reflecting the public trend, five of the 15 justices recognized the same-name rule as unconstitutional.

A 34-year-old woman who came from Yokohama to observe the court proceedings said, “To impose the legal obligation on married people to have the same surname infringes on the dignity of all individuals and their personal rights.”

Commenting on the top court decision, President of the Japan Federation of Women’s Organizations (Fudanren) Shibata Masako said, “The UN Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) has repeatedly made a recommendation urging the Japanese government to introduce the separate surname system and abolish the six-month-period ban on remarriage for newly divorced women.” Noting that at a meeting scheduled for February 2016 in Geneva, the CEDAW will examine progress in Japan’s efforts to tackle discrimination against women, Shibata said, “Fudanren will organize various actions to increase public awareness of the need to protect women’s rights in preparation for the meeting.”

Head of the women’s department of the National Confederation of Trade Unions (Zenroren) Nagao Yuri said, “In many opinion polls, the percentage of approval for a system enabling married couples to have different surnames exceeds that of disapproval. The top court failed to take into consideration the public consensus regarding the dual-surname system for married couples. Zenroren will increase its efforts in order to achieve the revision of the Civil Code without delay.”

Past related articles:
> Science Council of Japan calls for introduction of separate surname system [December 5, 2015]
> Momentum for dual-surname system is growing [April 20, 2015]
> Court rejects married couples’ demand for right to separate surnames [May 30, 2013]
> UN calls on Japan to eliminate discriminatory provisions against women from civil code [December 1, 2011]
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