Saturday, October 17, 2009

Separate Surnames

"When couples register their marriage, they are required to choose only one of their family names under the current Civil Law.

"Wives or husbands who change their surnames upon marriage are forced to make adjustments in work-related and personal relations accumulated under their original surnames.

"In most cases, it is the wife who changes her surname to that of her husband. Many working women must feel disinclined to change their names. But if they opt for a common-law marriage because they don't want to change their names, those people could face disadvantages in inheritance and other matters.

"Forcing people to change their names--symbols of their personalities--also runs counter to the constitutional principle that says, "All of the people shall be respected as individuals."

"Under the proposed optional dual-surname system, married couples would be allowed to keep their original surnames if they want.

"The Democratic Party of Japan and others had submitted bills to revise the Civil Law to that effect. After the start of the DPJ-led government, Justice Minister Keiko Chiba stated that she plans to submit a revision bill to the ordinary Diet session as early as next year.

"Few countries force married couples to have the same surnames. It has been a quarter of a century since Japan ratified the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, which effectively calls for a two-name system. Among industrialized countries, Japan is about the only one that has not adopted the system.

"During the Edo Period (1603-1867), farmers and commoners were not allowed to have surnames. Married couples were legally obliged to have the same surnames under the old civil law enacted a little more than a century ago during the Meiji Era (1868-1912).

"With women's advancement in society, married couples and families have taken diversified forms. According to an opinion poll conducted by the Cabinet Office three years ago, a record high 46 percent of the respondents said they find it inconvenient to change their surnames at marriage.

"Thirteen years ago, the Justice Ministry's Legislative Council recommended a legal revision to introduce the optional dual-surname system for married couples.

"Since then, critics have cited the following reasons for their opposition: It is Japanese tradition and culture for married couples to have the same surnames; if couples are allowed to have separate surnames, familial ties would be broken; and it would confuse children and be detrimental from an educational perspective.

"In a survey conducted this week by The Asahi Shimbun, opinions were divided, with 48 percent for the revision and 41 percent against it.

"Changing a long-standing system will inevitably bring about concerns and resistance. We also understand that a sense of unity in a family is so important in providing a good environment for nurturing children.

"Still, there are more important elements in maintaining familial ties--such as everyday love and care--than simply sharing the same surname.

"Obviously, families in which all members have the same surname can experience problems, just as couples in common-law marriages are capable of loving each other and caring for their children.

"The idea is not to force all couples to take separate surnames, but to give them a choice. We should part with the vestiges of the old "family" system.

"Accepting diversified ways of life can also be useful in breaking the sense of stagnation that society faces today. Recognizing married couples with different surnames can be a major step in that direction.

"The government should submit the revision bill without hesitation. It is time for the Diet to settle the matter."

By Asahi Shimbun (Editorial, 10/16/2009), Link to article (last visited 10/17/2009)

1 comment:

Marcus said...

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