Thursday, November 26, 2009

"Surrogate birth family allows 1st media photos

"A 53-year-old woman who became a surrogate mother for her daughter posed for media photographs with the daughter, 27, earlier this year as part of an interview with The Yomiuri Shimbun.

"It was the first time in the nation that participants in a surrogate birth had agreed to allow the media to photograph them.

"The daughter had her uterus surgically removed at the age of 1 after a large tumor was discovered there. After she married, her mother offered to carry her daughter's child.

"Doctors at Suwa Maternity Clinic in Nagano Prefecture carried out the in vitro fertilization and procedures for the birth.

"They fertilized one of the woman's ova with her husband's sperm and transplanted the fertilized egg into her mother's womb. The mother delivered a baby boy this spring by cesarean section.

""I've had the joy of having my own child, but my daughter is unable to give birth herself," the mother told the Yomiuri. "I wanted her to feel this joy and offered to give birth on her behalf."

"Questions were raised about the safety of a 53-year-old woman delivering a child, something the daughter was fully aware of.

""I wondered whether I needed a child so much I would go to the point of damaging my mother's health," the daughter said. "But I thought I would venture to take one step forward and consulted with hospital director [Yahiro] Netsu."

"After the birth of her son, the daughter said she did not really feel as if she had become a mother. But she gradually developed maternal feelings after changing his diapers every day and feeding him milk at night.

"Asked why they allowed the Yomiuri to photograph them, the daughter said: "Some women are born without a uterus and some women lose them through illness. By talking about my own concerns, I hope I can help ease the concerns of these women. I don't want them to give up."

"Her mother added: "Giving birth to new life is a wonderful thing. I hope no ban is imposed on surrogate births, and this path to having children is not closed.""

By Yomiuri Shimbun (11/25/2009), Link to article (last visited 11/26/2009)

"Foreigners' suffrage

"Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama and Democratic Party of Japan Secretary-General Ichiro Ozawa both support giving permanent foreign residents the right to vote in elections that choose local government chiefs and assembly members. The bill is due to be submitted to the ordinary Diet session next year.

"Since 1998, the DPJ, New Komeito and other parties had submitted similar bills. However, due to deep-rooted opposition, Diet debate over this issue has made little progress. Meanwhile, local communities are becoming increasingly multicultural.

"The Hatoyama government advocates the creation of a "society where multiple cultures coexist." Then surely it is time to move forward to realize such a society.

"The number of non-Japanese with permanent residency in the nation has increased by 50 percent in the past decade to 910,000. Among them, 420,000 are ethnic Koreans with special permanent residence status due to their historical background.

"The figure has increased because a growing number of foreigners have obtained ordinary permanent residence status. Many decided to live in Japan in and after the 1980s for such reasons as business and marriage. They are from various countries, including China, Brazil and the Philippines.

"Those permanent residents have put down roots as good neighbors in their communities. It is appropriate that they should be given the right to participate in local elections and share the responsibility for improving their communities.

"The nation needs human resources from abroad to maintain vitality in society. Granting the right to vote in local elections to permanent foreign residents will help to create an environment comfortable for foreigners to live in. It will also strengthen local autonomy in line with the trend for decentralization.

"Some opponents insist that foreign residents should acquire Japanese nationality if they want to vote. But it is only natural for them to wish to maintain connections with their native countries while having affectionate ties with the communities they currently live in. The answer is not to exclude those people but to create a society that honors diverse lifestyles.

"More than 200 local governments have come up with ordinances that enable foreign residents to vote in local referendums on issues like municipal mergers. In 1995, the Supreme Court ruled that the Constitution does not forbid new legislation to grant voting rights in local elections to non-Japanese residents with close interests in their communities.

"More than 40 countries, such as European nations and South Korea, have given suffrage to foreign residents who meet certain requirements and conditions.

"In recent years, opponents have increasingly expressed concerns that a large number of foreigners could use their voting rights for purposes that might put national security at risk. We cannot accept such inflammatory arguments that seek to agitate, cause anxiety and stir up exclusive intolerance. It is far more dangerous to isolate and exclude foreign residents as "those who might cause harm." We should include them into the community to create a stable society.

"The DPJ is considering a bill that would limit voting rights to people from countries that have diplomatic relations with Japan. The ruling party is apparently trying to allay anti-North Korean sentiment by excluding ethnic Koreans registered under Joseon (old undivided Korea) nationality, instead of South Korea.

"However, all people with Joseon nationality do not necessarily support North Korea. We are now trying to create an inclusive system to allow foreign residents to participate as good neighbors in local communities.

"Is it really appropriate to exclude a certain group of people based on different political concerns? Further debate is necessary."

By Asahi Shimbun (Editorial, 11/23/2009), Link to article (last visited 11/26/2009)

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Selection of Supreme Court Justices

"Hoping to dispel criticism of exclusionary practices in its process of selecting candidates for Supreme Court justices, the Japan Federation of Bar Associations is revising its rules to include more lawyers from rural areas.

"Starting next spring, the federation will allow individual lawyers to make recommendations for prospective Supreme Court justices, provided they gather nominations from 50 other lawyers.

"Currently, lawyers must be recommended by one of the nation's 52 bar associations. Most lawyers on the top court bench were selected from bar associations in Tokyo and Osaka."

By Asahi Shimbun (11/19/2009), Link to article (last visited 11/21/2009)

"Ex-businessmen doing poorly on bar exam

"Law schools that have emphasized the training of adults with experience working in society--in order to produce legal professionals with broad points of view--are now finding themselves in great difficulty.

"In this year's national bar examination, the fourth to be conducted under the new exam system, less than 20 percent of those with experience working in society passed the exam.

"Some law schools have changed their educational policies and plan to expand their quotas for students who already have majored in law at universities.

"Law schools were introduced in 2004 as a key pillar of judicial system reform, but many law school teachers say three years of study is not enough time for people who did not major in law at universities to catch up with those who did.

"This year's average pass rate for the new bar exam was 28 percent--39 percent for students who majored in law at universities and 19 percent for those who did not.

"Tsukuba University Law School offers only a three-year night course for students who did not major in law at universities, targeting such people as those who have university degrees in fields other than law and those with experience of working in society.

""I have a family and I also have to make money to pay my tuition," said a company employee in his 30s who takes classes on weekday evenings after work and all day on Saturdays.

"The Tsukuba law school's students have less study time than those at other schools, who also can study in the daytime. Thirty-four of its students took the exam this year, but only three passed.

""I believe our school has met the ideal of the judicial system reforms, which aim to nurture legal professionals with rich experience, but the reality is harsh," said Makoto Arai, a professor at Tsukuba University and the head of the law school.

"Waseda University Law School also has concentrated on nurturing students with experience working in society. Ten percent of its students are in a two-year course for those who majored in law at universities, and the remaining 90 percent are taking a course for students who did not.

"But the percentage of its students who passed this year's bar exam was lower than those of rival schools whose students are largely graduates from different universities' law faculties. Waseda University saw 33 percent of its students pass the exam, while the figure was 56 percent for Tokyo University and 46 percent for Keio University.

"To improve the pass rate, Waseda University has decided, beginning in the 2011 academic year, to expand considerably its quota for students who have graduated from law faculties. Of its total quota of 270 students, 150 would be graduates from law faculties.

"Waseda University Prof. Shuichi Furuya, who is in charge of educational affairs, said with a sigh that the university had to change its policy "for its students to pass the bar exam."

"Kagoshima University Law School has a policy of nurturing legal professionals who offer judicial services in local communities. Its students have practical training in legal consultation, staying on an isolated island for three nights and four days with lawyers, during which time they give advice on such legal troubles as boundary disputes.

"However, only two of its students passed the bar exam this year. Concerned about the situation, the university reportedly plans to start a student exchange program with Kyushu University from the next academic year.

""The time has come to reconsider the new bar exam, including the way questions are asked," lawyer Kazuhiro Nakanishi of the Japan Federation of Bar Associations' Law School Center said."

By Yomiuri Shimbun (11/10/2009), Link to article (last visited 11/21/2009)

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Asahi editorial: discrimination against illegitimate children

"Under Japan's Civil Code, children born out of wedlock are entitled to only half the inheritance of their legitimate counterparts if their parents die without making a will.

"Whether one is born legitimate or illegitimate is not one's choice. From the moment of birth, every child should be respected as a human being and treated fairly under the law.

"Yet, the Civil Code continues to discriminate against children born out of wedlock.

"The United Nations has repeatedly urged Japan to end this unfair practice, but Japan has yet to comply. This is hardly the way to go for any civilized, law-abiding nation, and it is only natural that some people have been battling this discrimination.

"But public opinion remains guarded on the issue. A survey conducted by the Cabinet Office in 2006 found that 41 percent of the respondents favored maintaining the status quo, 25 percent believed the discrimination should end, and 31 percent said they weren't sure.

"According to the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare, children born out of wedlock account for more than 40 percent of all children in Britain and France, with the United States following close behind. In these countries, the concept of family is defined broadly, and common-law marriages are fairly standard.

"In Japan, on the other hand, illegitimate children account for a mere 2 percent of all children. A simple comparison with the above three countries cannot be made because of differences in how society perceives marriage and family. But this still does not mean Japan is justified in continuing to discriminate against out-of-wedlock children under the law.

"In 1996, the Justice Ministry's Legislative Council recommended revising the Civil Code to end the discrimination. The Democratic Party of Japan sponsored a bill to that effect when it was in the opposition camp.

"Although public opinion was not yet ready for the revision at the time, the powers that be bear a heavy responsibility for failing to act.

"We should also challenge the Supreme Court's repeated decisions to uphold the constitutionality of the treatment of out-of-wedlock children regarding inheritance.

"In 1995, the top court's Grand Bench ruled that since the Civil Code protects out-of-wedlock children by recognizing their right to a share of inheritance while respecting the rights of legitimate children, the treatment of out-of-wedlock children cannot be deemed unreasonably unfair.

"This was the majority opinion of 10 of the 15 Supreme Court justices. The remaining five justices argued that the treatment was grossly unconstitutional, noting that it violated Article 14 of the Constitution that provides for equality under the law.

"We find this minority opinion more persuasive. The Supreme Court has not changed its position since, but dissenting opinions continue to be voiced in inheritance-related cases involving out-of-wedlock children.

"The Civil Code has in effect been encouraging society to discriminate against children born out of wedlock. Surely it is the responsibility of the judiciary to rectify this and apply the law equally and fairly to all citizens.

"The Supreme Court must adjust to the present times and depart from its precedents.

"Justice Minister Keiko Chiba of the Yukio Hatoyama administration is willing to revise the Civil Code's discriminatory provision. We hope she will act without delay."

By Asahi Shimbun (Editorial, 11/10/2009), Link to article (last visited 11/11/2009)