Monday, August 29, 2011

The Family, Koseki, and the Individual

On 14 February, Kayama Emi and Watanabe Tsuguo filed an administrative appeal to have the rejection of their marriage application by Arakawa Ward, Tokyo rescinded.1 Ms. Kayama wanted to keep her surname after marriage, as did Mr. Watanabe. The court rejected the appeal after only ten days without hearing arguments. “I’ve never had a gate closed in my face so quickly,” said Ms. Kayama.

They are now demanding damages on the basis of sexual discrimination, a case that is expected to take two years in the Tokyo High Court. Their appeal is based on Article 24 of the Constitution, which guarantees gender equality and respect of individual rights in marriage, and Article 13, which guarantees the right to pursue personal happiness. In contrast, current law requiring married couples to have a single surname, either the husband or wife’s, is based solely on an “agreement” (goi) between the parties involved.

It is not only women in the workplace who are inconvenienced by misunderstandings around names. Men wanting to adopt their wife’s name also run into barriers, whether due to confusion involving names at the workplace, to opposition from the husband’s family if he is the oldest son inheriting property and tasked with carrying on the family name, or to social prejudice and jabs about being “adopted” by the wife’s family.

No comments: