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Lawsuit For Women to Keep Maiden Names After Marriage in Japan

Japanese Women Sue to Keep Maiden Names After Marriage

Every country has its marriage problems. While the US fights for same-sex marriage, gay people in China are arranging sham marriages to appease families. But in Japan, straight women are asking for the simple right to retain their maiden names.

The anger's been steeping for a while, but four women and one man (one woman's spouse) took action this week by filing what could be a landmark case for civil rights in Japan. A 19th-century law says all females must change their birth names to their husbands' after marriage; however, Japan's Civil Code only stipulates that married couples must share a last name and doesn't specify whose. So in recent years, some men have been taking their wives' surnames, particularly when women hail from more noble families. How . . . noble of them?

The lawsuit says forcing women to change their names breaches a civil code clause dating back to 1898, which guarantees equal rights for both spouses. Lest you think this is some Gen-Y revolution, think again. One of the four women at the center of the lawsuit is 75-year-old Kyoko Tsukamoto. She says that having to use her husband's surname for more than half a century has been "like having a splinter in my heart." Though her husband does not agree, she decided to join the case because she's been lobbying lawmakers in vain for decades.

It seems like such a small request, but the women still face an uphill battle. Only 37 percent of Japan's residents support amending the civil code, and 35 percent are against it. Really, Japan? It's not like they want to marry a national monument or a virtual girlfriend!

Source: Flickr User Macorig Paolo

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