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HOME  > Past issues  > 2021 June 23 - 29  > JCP Kurabayashi protests against top court ruling recognizing that imposition of the mandatory common surname is 'constitutional'
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2021 June 23 - 29 TOP3 [SOCIAL ISSUES]

JCP Kurabayashi protests against top court ruling recognizing that imposition of the mandatory common surname is 'constitutional'

June 24, 2021
On a special appeal involving three couples in a de facto state of marriage, the Supreme Court's Grand Bench on June 23 decided that Civil Code and Family Register Act provisions that reject the notification of dual-surname marriages "do not violate the Constitution" guaranteeing the right to freedom of marriage. Eleven of the 15 judges recognized the provisions as "constitutional". This was the second "constitutional" decision following a Grand Bench ruling in December 2015.

Japanese Communist Party member of the Upper House Kurabayashi Akiko who heads the party's Gender Equality Commission published a statement in response to the top court decision. Her statement excerpt is as follows:

More and more Japanese people in recent years have come to approve the introduction of a selective separate surname marriage system. Many local assemblies one after another adopted resolutions endorsing a dual surname system. Nevertheless, the top court decision turned out unsurprisingly to be very old-fashioned. The JCP strongly protests against the ruling.

Names are symbols of identity, representing the personality. Changing the name is often associated with various disadvantages and emotional distress. The existing laws oblige either one of a couple to change their family name, and if not, force the couple to give up on obtaining an officially-registered marriage. This runs counter to "respect for individuality" and the "right to the pursuit of happiness" stipulated in the Constitution, obviously depriving couples of the freedom to choose.

The mandatory common surname system is a relic of the prewar patriarchy system. At present, more than 95% of the married women abandon their maiden names in contradistinction to the constitutional stipulation of "equality of sexes". In addition, the UN Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women repeatedly issues recommendations to Japan to amend the outdated provisions in relevant laws.

The conservatives who demand allegiance to the old family system form the obstacle to a dual surname system. The upcoming general election will provide the chance to overcome the present situation. The JCP in cooperation with concerned citizens and other opposition parties will do its utmost in the election campaign in order to form a government aspiring to individual dignity and gender equality.

Past related articles:
> JCP Vice Chair Hiroi criticizes top court ruling disapproving dual-surname system [December 17, 2015]
> Choice of name is fundamental for all people to be respected as individuals [December 17, 2015]

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