Hopes are growing that Japan will start allowing married couples to use different surnames, with Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga recently suggesting he remains committed to introducing the option.
The Civil Code obliges married couples to have the same last name and, by convention, it obliges women to adopt the name of their husband.
The United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women has recommended a review of the law, saying it discriminates against women, and surveys in recent years have shown that many in Japan favor the possibility of keeping their birth name even after marriage. .
When Suga was questioned at a Diet committee meeting on November 6 about his call to create the option, he said: “As a politician I bear a responsibility because I have said such things. .
The spontaneous response suggesting his commitment to work on the issue surprised lawmakers and opposition officials.
“No bureaucrat can prepare a scenario like this. The response exceeded our expectations and reflected the thoughts of the Prime Minister, ”said a government official.
Calling Suga’s words “powerful,” a top Liberal Democrat lawmaker who lobbied for the surname option said they “would help facilitate debate on the issue.”
An online survey conducted in October by Waseda University professor Masayuki Tanamura and a civic group targeting people under the age of 60 showed that 70.6% of 7,000 respondents said they didn’t mind if couples married couples had different last names, while 14.4% said all couples should have the same last name. .
When the government asked for public comments on the surname issue in August and September, it received more than 400 comments. None of them were against being able to choose separate surnames, while some said they gave up marriage to avoid changing their last name and chose not to have common-law children.
Reflecting these views, a basic overview of the government’s new five-year policy on gender equality reported to Suga earlier this month stated, “Some people say that not being able to use the last name that they had used before marriage causing problems in their life.
While the ruling LDP is known to have many conservative members who adamantly oppose separate surnames as detrimental to the unity of the family, signs of change are appearing.
The LDP set up a special committee on promoting women’s empowerment in late October, with a task force dedicated to discussing the surname issue.
“The fact that the debate on what has long been considered taboo has started is the result of people raising their voices,” said Naho Ida, a senior civic group official who conducted the survey. Tanamura, professor of family law.
“We want the Prime Minister to solve this problem quickly as a worrying problem for people,” she said.