In Japan Couples Forced To Share Surname
Married couples in Japan are obliged to share Surname subject to provisions of the law.
A Japenese top court on Wednesday ruled that legal provisions forcing married couples to use the same surname are constitutional, upholding a Supreme Court judgment from 2015.
The latest decision on a more than century-old provision based on the Civil Code and the family register law dismissed requests filed by three couples in 2018 to keep their separate surnames after local governments refused to accept their marriage registrations.
The decision handed down by presiding Justice Naoto Otani at the Supreme Court’s Grand Bench, populated by all 15 justices, came at a time when families have become more diverse and public opinion on surname sharing has shifted in Japan.
Under Japanese law, married couples are not allowed separate surnames and have to choose one or the other. About 96 percent choose the man’s surname. (Same-sex marriage is not legal in Japan.)
Japanese politicians have historically opposed couples having separate surnames, reasoning that it would “damage the unity of a family.”
However, an online opinion poll in November showed that 70% of people supported the right of married couples to have separate surnames, even if most would still choose to adopt the same name.
Ayano Sakurai, a gender equality activist, organized a petition in December asking for a selective surname system that garnered more than 30,000 signatures in just five days.
Married three years ago, Sakurai said changing her legal surname left her “feeling like zero and having to start afresh to build an entirely new identity.”
Japan’s Enforcing of Same Surnames for Couples Has Only a Short History. It was not until the early Meiji era (1868–1912), that the general public could even use surnames.
They are said to have been introduced to improve the family registration system for the purpose of collecting taxes and managing military enlistment.