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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

MeiGaku MeiGaku 6 years
yeah... good luck with this. after being there for a while, the main thing i've realized about japan is everything revolves around tradition and bureaucracy. it's a don't fix it if it hasn't been run to the ground system over there, which is sad. i mean, why do you think the sony execs make less than their less-successful korean buddies, samsung execs? because of their backwards bureaucratic system. sigh. there are so many other issues regarding women's rights there... i mean, some women just won't marry (hence the birth issues) since it means confining themselves to a home (for the most part).
IdeaOfOrder IdeaOfOrder 6 years
This wasn't a simple issue for me and still isn't. I kept my last name and my husband kept his.. after 4 years of marriage, we're finally going to change it to a new mutual lastname that we've agreed on. I'm very excited about that! Hopefully Japan will embrace this.
amber512 amber512 6 years
Keeping my own last name was really important to me and I'm appalled that other women don't have the same choice.
bluesarahlou bluesarahlou 6 years
It's amazing something so simple, that most of us don't give a second thought to doing when we get married, is against the law in Japan. Women should have the option, it would be really cool for this to happen.
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