Friday, March 5, 2010

Asahi Editorial on Family Law Reform

"It now seems uncertain whether proposed Civil Law revisions that would enable married couples to use separate surnames will be submitted to the Diet during the current session.

"While Justice Minister Keiko Chiba is eager to pass the bill into law, Financial Services Minister Shizuka Kamei of the People's New Party, a ruling coalition partner of the Democratic Party of Japan, has come out clearly against it. Some DPJ members also oppose it.

"The bill reflects recommendations made by the Legislative Council in 1996. However, due to strong opposition by the Liberal Democratic Party, which was then in power, the government has been unable to submit the bill.

"Opponents claim that Japanese culture and tradition demand that married couples use the same family name. They argue that having different surnames would sever family ties and cause children to suffer.

"However, the proposed system will merely give couples the choice of using the same or different surnames when they marry. It does not require or force anyone to keep the surname they were born with. To avoid any confusion, the proposed bill requires couples to decide in advance on their children's surname and to ensure that all siblings have the same family name.

"Furthermore, the bill has proposals to shorten the current six-month period immediately after a divorce during which a divorced woman cannot remarry to 100 days and to abolish discrimination against children born out of wedlock regarding their inheritance rights.

"These proposals all reflect today's diverse lifestyles. We believe these revisions would both create a more comfortable environment for working women to pursue careers and improve the low birthrate.

"The U.N. Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women has recommended the Japanese government promptly implement such reforms.

"According to an Asahi Shimbun public opinion poll conducted last December, 49 percent of respondents supported the idea of letting couples use separate surnames, while 43 percent were against it. Among women in their 30s and 40s, many of whom are working and raising children, nearly 70 percent were for it.

"The times have changed and families now take diversified forms. Women account for more than 40 percent of the working population. The traditional concept of the family took for granted that the man would work while the woman would stay home to look after their children and keep house.

"However, the actual situation today for many people is very far from that outdated concept. Many couples live in common-law marriages because of work-related reasons, even though they know they will face disadvantages. Divorced and single mothers are supporting their children on their own. Providing an environment that makes it easier for such women to work leads to "protecting life," a slogan advocated by Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama.

"Making the working world better for women will only help rebuild Japan's stagnant economy and society.

"Kamei calls for measures to bolster the economy and stresses the views of employees in advocating revisions to the worker dispatch law. We believe supporting women's advancement in society will also lead to a stronger economy and help to stabilize employment in the long run.

"The DPJ has been urging these revisions. Hatoyama should do everything he can to form a consensus within the DPJ and the ruling coalition. Discussions should be diligently moved forward."

By Asahi Shimbun (Editorial, 3/4/2010), Link to article (last visited 3/5/2010)

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