Wednesday, January 13, 2010

"Surname bill would require children to share same name

"A bill to be submitted by the Justice Ministry to an upcoming Diet session to revise the Civil Code will require married couples who have chosen to use separate surnames to ensure their children use the names of either their mothers or fathers, according to a draft of the bill obtained by The Yomiuri Shimbun.

"The bill also will raise the legal age to consent to marriage for girls from 16 to 18.

"The ministry plans to submit the bill to an ordinary Diet session to be convened Monday. The ministry plans to begin negotiating with the ruling parties in an attempt to gain the Cabinet's approval of the bill in March.

"In past bills submitted by the Democratic Party of Japan in regard to surnames for children whose parents each have a different name, the then opposition party wanted to allow children to have different names.

"But the Legislative Council, an advisory panel for the justice minister, concluded in 1996 that siblings should have the same family names, even when their parents don't.

"Justice Minister Keiko Chiba has been an advocate of a system that would allow women to retain their maiden names after marriage and played a leading role in the submission of the DPJ's past bills.

"But political observers say she changed her stance due to criticism that separate names for children would dissolve family unity and because she placed priority on the passage of a bill.

"In addition to the use of separate surnames, the revision also proposes that:

-- The age of consent for girls for marriage be raised from 16 to 18, in line with the law for boys.

-- Inheritance rights be made universal for children. The current law guarantees children born out of wedlock only half of what they are entitled to if they are born to married parents.

-- Women be allowed to remarry 100 days after their divorce is finalized, down from the current 180 days.

"However, inside the ruling camp, Shizuka Kamei, minister of state for financial services and leader of the People's New Party, is vocally opposed to the separate surname system."

By Yomiuri Shimbun (1/12/2010), Link to article (last visited 1/13/2010)