Japan couples file a lawsuit with support from businesses to repeal the surname rule

A legislation in Japan requiring married couples to share a surname has led to six couples suing the government. This is the most recent judicial challenge to a century-old tradition that many claim causes harm to individuals and the general public in addition to perpetuating inequality. On March 8, ten plaintiffs—including common law and legal couples—will file a lawsuit in a district court in Tokyo, and one couple will file in Sapporo. In an effort to highlight the practice’s disproportionate impact on women, the decision was made on International Women’s Day. Parliament will examine the statute if the Supreme Court declares it to be unconstitutional.

 

Prior lawsuits, one of which was filed in 2021, were rejected by the highest court. However, as more people become aware of the obstacles women face in the workplace, the calls for reform have been stronger. This is instilling confidence in the plaintiffs and attorneys involved in the current action. Attorney Makiko Terahara, who is spearheading the case and has experience with two previous cases of this kind, stated that an increasing number of male managers support a system that gives married couples options. “The third attempt will work. In February, Chairman Masakazu Tokura of the influential business lobby group Keidanren, which is well-known for its conservative views, voiced support for the idea during a press conference by saying, “I personally think we should introduce a separate surname system.

 

As early as the first half of 2024, Keidanren intends to present a recommendation letter on the matter to the government. The Japanese adopted legislation in 1898 to formalize their patriarchal family system, which is when the single-surname system originated. While it is possible for a husband to legally take on his wife’s surname, in reality, it is typically the wife who modifies her name. Due to the disparity between their legal and business identities, women who continue to use their names at work face difficulties in their daily lives as the number of women in professional roles rises. Additionally, the name restriction creates significant personal challenges.

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