Thursday, December 17, 2015

Discussion about two verdicts regarding women's rights in Japan

Recently, a couple of important decisions regarding women’s rights were carried out by Supreme Court in Japan. Interestingly, each verdict are somehow conflicting with each other.

The first verdict said that 6-months rule is violating the Constitution. Article 377 of the Civil Code prohibits women from remarrying before six months have passed since she divorced. This regulation is considered to prevent the infant of the woman from the uncertainty of his or her father.

Men are not restricted by the law regarding remarrying. Therefore, some women have been claiming that this article is discriminating against women. Some years ago, the government planned to shorten the prohibiting term from 6 months to 100 days, but the amendment of the law has not been realized due to the opposition of some conservative politicians.

At this time, the Supreme Court determined that the 6-months rule is violating the Constitution in which men and women should be equally treated. Following the decision, the diet is demanded to accelerate the discussion of revising the legislation.

On the other hand, another verdict committed that Article 750 of the Civil Code is valid. It regulates that married couples have to use either the wife’s or husband’s surname. Thus, the wife or the husband is forced to change her of his own surname. In real, most wives, and quite a few husbands, change the surname, because of traditional value of Japanese culture. You can imagine that changing surname is stressful, especially you have several social activities. This regulation is also deemed as discriminating and hindering women’s activity.

In Japan, selective separate surnames policy is discussed. In this scheme, each couple can continue to use the original surname, if they want to do so. This scheme seems to meet everyone’s need at a glance, but there will be several issues regarding consistency of conventional legal systems. In addition, some people who have conservative thoughts are opposing it, warning the risk of destroying the bond of family.

In my opinion, the both regulations are out of date. Japan was requested to amend the uni-surname policy by Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women in the UN. I think not a few Japanese will feel strange when separate surnames policy is approved for a while. But it will last only temporally. Indeed, a couple of centuries ago, most Japanese did not have a surname.

The 6-months rule is nonsense. Nowadays, it is not difficult to identify the father of an infant using DNA examination. To begin with, it is not guaranteed that a baby is the son or daughter of the father. Not having sex with a man other than the husband is not ensured by the law, but by the mutual trust between the couple. On the contrary, it is highly unlikely that the wife is given a baby with the ex-husband just after divorce, because she seems not to be willing to have sex with the husband who is going to be separated.

Japan is approaching a turning point. Several issues should be reconsidered, many of which are to be amended. We should be open-minded for the better future.


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