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Tuesday, Dec. 2, 2008

DNA center of nationality debate

Conservative lawmakers claim paternity tests would discriminate against foreigners


Staff writer

With concern growing among lawmakers that amending the Nationality Law will engender false cases of paternal recognition, debate is focusing on whether DNA tests should be applied to the process of granting nationality.

Many lawmakers claim that it is essential to conduct a DNA test to prevent non-Japanese from illegally obtaining Japanese nationality through false claims of paternity, while others now argue that requiring such a test would present a number of problems, including discrimination against foreigners.

The revision of the Nationality Law would allow children born out of wedlock to Japanese men and foreign women to obtain Japanese nationality if the father acknowledges paternity after the birth.

This is in line with a Supreme Court ruling on June 4 that a provision of the law on the status of such children is unconstitutional because it states the children can only receive Japanese nationality if the father admits paternity during the mother's pregnancy, or if the couple gets married before the child turns 20.

Some ruling lawmakers, however, have received hundreds of e-mails and petitions via fax from voters who oppose the revision. They argue that Japanese nationality would be easy to obtain because the revision does not require any scientific test to prove the parent-child relationship.

"If a law like this is misused, what will happen to the Japanese identity?" Takeo Hiranuma, a former trade minister and a staunch opponent of the revision, asked during a meeting last month with LDP lawmakers to discuss the nationality law issue.

The revision passed the Lower House last month with an attached nonbinding resolution that urges the government to study the feasibility of scientific measures to find evidence to prove the parent-child relationship.

The Upper House Justice Committee could vote on the revision as early as this week.

Many pro-DNA test politicians said the revision could be used as the basis of a black market business for acquiring Japanese nationality, which some lawmakers also argue would lead to violations of the human rights of children.

"To really think of the protection of human rights, it is necessary to have the DNA test," said Yasuo Tanaka, leader of New Party Nippon, during an Upper House Justice Committee session last week.

Tanaka said the revised law could be "a false paternal recognition promotion law."

However, the Justice Ministry does not support the DNA test out of concern it would promote the concept of the family as simply based on biological evidence, Kei Kurayoshi, a senior official at the ministry, has repeatedly said at Diet sessions.

Using the DNA test may contradict the family law, overturning well-established family ties or parent-child relationships, he said.

According to LDP lawmaker Taro Kono, under the current civil code, a surrogate mother who received a fertilized egg and gave birth would be recognized as the legal mother of the child, not the biological mother.

Article 772 of the Civil Code also stipulates that if a married woman conceives a child during the marriage, the child must be regarded as her husband's, even without testing the biological evidence.

Kurayoshi said the current Civil Code includes this article to secure the child's social position, even if it is unknown whether the child is really the couple's biological child or not.

Yasuhiro Okuda, a Chuo University Law School professor, said if the DNA test was included in the revision, some might wish to use it to reverse court rulings on paternal recognition, throwing the judicial system into chaos.

Okuda also said the courts do not necessarily require a DNA test in a case of paternal recognition.

Kurayoshi said the ministry plans to thoroughly check applications for nationality, including asking how the couple met, how they came to apply for nationality and how the father plans to support the child.

Liberal Democratic Party Lower House member Tomomi Inada wrote in a column for the Sankei Shimbun that if the DNA test was conducted over the nationality case, it would have to be done for those born to married couples as well because the Supreme Court ruled that it is unconstitutional to discriminate against children based on whether their parents are married or not.

Some lawmakers argue that applying the DNA test only to cases of children born to foreign mothers could be discriminatory.

"In a way, (the DNA test) is too burdensome (for applicants), or may be considered discriminatory. I think this is nonsense," said Upper House member Masamichi Kondo of the Social Democratic Party.

Shinichiro Toyama of the Japan Federation of Bar Associations also pointed out a number of practical issues, such as where the test would be given and who would pay the ¥100,000 cost per person.



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