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HOME  > Past issues  > 2015 December 16 - 22  > Choice of name is fundamental for all people to be respected as individuals
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2015 December 16 - 22 [SOCIAL ISSUES]

Choice of name is fundamental for all people to be respected as individuals

December 17, 2015
Akahata ‘current’ column

When she returned to competitive tennis, her name sounded very new to us. Once-retired professional tennis player Kimiko Date-Krumm said that she valued her husband’s surname because it was him, German racing driver Michael Krumm, who encouraged her to make a comeback to competitive tennis.

In the case of international marriages, there is no need for couples to use the same family name. They can use separate names or can hyphenate the names like Date-Krumm. However, when it comes to a marriage between two Japanese, the couple must use the same last name. The judiciary has yet to show any reasonable grounds regarding the lack of the freedom of choice in marital surnames for Japanese.

A more than 100-year-old provision of the Civil Code stipulates the obligation to have the same surname. The Grand Bench of the Supreme Court has ruled that this provision does not violate equality under the law as guaranteed in the Constitution.

The provision in question allows married couples to opt for either the husband’s or wife’s family name. In fact, in most cases, it is women who lose their maiden names. Here, we have a glimpse into sexual discrimination. Regarding the surname issue, Japan is unique in the world and has repeatedly received recommendations to change the outdated system from the UN Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women.

Both the first name and family name are fundamental for all people to be identified and respected as individuals, and thus it is inseparable from individual character. Imposing the same-surname system on us infringes upon human rights. Family and marriage values are changing. Nevertheless, the Grand Bench has decided to keep this outdated family law as it is.

The top court has also left another controversial provision which bans only women from getting remarried for a certain period of time. The current regime supports and indeed embraces many politicians who are seeking to go back to the prewar family system. Such outdated provisions which disregard the dignity of each person should be removed from the Civil Code so that both women and men can live in equality without gender discrimination.
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