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HOME  > Past issues  > 2021 October 20 - 26  > Change of gov’t, fastest way to introduce selective dual-surname system
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2021 October 20 - 26 [SOCIAL ISSUES]

Change of gov’t, fastest way to introduce selective dual-surname system

October 21, 2021
Akahata editorial

Among political party leaders in a pre-election debate on October 18, only Prime Minister and Liberal Democratic Party President Kishida Fumio did not agree to hold discussions in the next ordinary session of the Diet to be convened in January 2022 on a bill to introduce a selective dual-surname system, though he is a founder of an LDP lawmakers’ group which was established in March with the aim of achieving an early introduction of the system. This indicates that regardless of his preference, Kishida, as the prime minister, turned his back on the system due to strong intraparty resistance. In order to realize the use of separate surnames by married couples, it is essential to replace the government in the October 31general election.

Japan, only country obliging married couples to share a surname

In the present-day world, Japan is the only nation that obliges married couples to share a surname. This is admitted by the government as shown in then Gender Equality Minister Marukawa Tamayo’s remark at a House of Representatives Budget Committee meeting on March 1. She said, “The government recognizes that no country other than Japan adopts a system forcing married couples to choose either the husband’s or wife’s surname.” Japan has been left behind the global trend.

Japan’s single-surname rule is set under Article 750 of the Civil Code which stipulates that "a husband and wife shall adopt the surname of the husband or wife in accordance with that which is decided at the time of marriage." The 2015 data of the Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry shows that the percentage of married couples that use the husband’s surname is 96%.

In many countries, it was common practice for women to take the husband’s last name when they married. However, such a discriminatory norm was revised in recognition of women's human rights, such as their personal rights and the right to be treated equally and with respect, and the use of separate surnames was accepted.

In the U.S., change of name is under the jurisdiction of each state. Hawaii was the last state where a wife was obliged to adopt her husband's surname. Following the court ruling that a change of wife's family name is a violation of equal rights as stipulated by the state constitution, married women in Hawaii became able to maintain their maidan names in 1976. In Germany, in 1976, a married couple became able to choose either the wife's or husband's family name by agreement. In 1994, it became legal for a married couple in Germany to use a separate surname. In Norway, in 1949, a wife became able to stay on her family name with her husband's consent. A husband's consent became unnecessary in 1964, and it became a fundamental rule in 1979 that each of them retains their surname. (refer to: "Reference", National Diet Library, August, 2021)

In Japan, the Legislative Council, an advisory body to the Minister of Justice, in 1996 recommended a partial revision of the Civil Code to introduce a selective dual-separate name system. The UN Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women repeatedly issues recommendations to the Japanese government to amend law provisions pertaining to the choice of a married couple's name so that women can retain the name used before marriage.

80% of people in 20s and 30s support separate surname system

Year after year, domestic public opinion is inclined to support a selective dual-surname system. Young people are particularly supportive of such system. According to data released in November 2020 by Prof. Tanamura Masayuki, School of Law at Waseda University, 78% of young people in their 20s and 30s "support" a selective dual-surname system.

As policies in common, four opposition parties, including the Japanese Communist Party, call for the introduction of a selective dual-surname system and the establishment of an LGBT equality law. In order to achieve a gender equal Japan, it is necessary to replace the government led by the Liberal Democratic Party and the Komei Party with a new one.
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