Justice Minister Keiko Chiba is so eager to revise the Civil Law that the government is likely to submit a related bill to the Diet next year. One of the changes proposed will be to allow all people to retain their surnames after getting married, if they so choose. At present, following the principle introduced in 1898, either the man or the woman must adopt the other's surname upon getting married.
Ms. Chiba's move is based on a proposal made in 1996 by the Justice Ministry's Legislative Council. It proposed allowing a man and a woman, when they marry, to either each keep their own surname or follow the single-surname policy. A married couple with different surnames would choose one to be given as a surname to their children. The Democratic Party of Japan has in the past submitted bills to the Diet proposing that a couple with separate surnames be able to decide on the surname of each child at birth.
The Liberal Democratic Party quashed the council's 1996 proposal, saying that use of separate surnames by a couple would lead to the collapse of the family system. In a 2007 Cabinet Office poll, 36.6 percent of respondents supported the use of separate surnames while 35 percent were against it. But even under the current system there are many divorces, and many unregistered marriages in which the man and woman use separate surnames. Many working women are inconvenienced by the single-surname system.
In view of the fact that family values and lifestyles have diversified, allowing a married couple to legally use separate surnames would help many people live a life that is in sync with their value system.
The council also proposed ensuring that legitimate and illegitimate children have equal inheritance rights to parents' estates; setting the minimum age for marriage at 18 for both sexes; and shortening the period in which women are prohibited from remarrying after divorce from six months to 100 days. These seem to be reasonable proposals from the viewpoint of respecting the dignity of individuals and equality between sexes.
The Japan Times Weekly: Nov. 14, 2009
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自民党は家族制度崩壊を理由に1996年の案を退けた。2007年の内閣府の調査では別姓支持は36.6 % 、不支持は35 % だが、現制度でも離婚や事実婚は多く、働く女性は改姓に不便を感じている。法の見直しは、多様化した家族の価値観や生活様式に対応している。