Will Japanese women be able to keep their maiden names after marriage? The big lobby demands change


TOKYO (AP) — A powerful Japanese business lobby is calling on the government to let married couples stay double surnamessaying that the lack of freedom to do so is hindering women’s progress and has even become a business risk.

In Japan, every married couple must legally adopt one surname. Although either surname can be used, 95% of them are women traditionally still adopt their husbands,” a 2022 government survey shows. Experts say such a law only exists in Japan and have even accused the country of pushing women away from marriage in a country already suffering dwindling marriages.

Keidanren of the Japan Business Federation said Monday that the law should be revised to fit a more diverse, equal and inclusive Japanese society.

This came months after a dozen plaintiffs filed a lawsuit asking for the system to be changed.

“As women play a more active role and the number of female executives increases, the surname issue has become a business risk that companies can no longer dismiss as a problem of certain individuals,” said Masakazu Tokura, head of Keidanren.

Tokura said many Japanese career women already use their maiden names at work and on their business cards, including 90% of Keidanren’s female members. However, they still have to use their uniform surnames on all legal documents, which causes problems when things like opening bank accounts, issuing credit cards and traveling abroad because the names don’t match, he said.

Keidanren internally surveyed its members and 88% of members female Managers were dissatisfied with the status quo.

The proposal from the organization – which has more than 1,500 Japanese companies and has regularly made economic policy recommendations – is seen as unusual because it usually supported the conservative government of Prime Minister Fumio Kishida. Liberal Democratic Party that the idea of ​​the double surname has been on the shelf for more than three decades.

Tokura says the proposal will be submitted to the government next week, after approval by the lobby’s board meeting. They also called on parliament to quickly support an amendment to the 1898 civil code, which regulates the adoption of surnames.

When asked about the proposal on Monday, ruling party Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshimasa Hayashi said public opinions on the issue varied and careful discussion was needed.

However, various studies show that the vast majority are in favor of a household with two surnames ruling LDP, which also opposes gay marriage, is already facing growing calls to allow for greater diversity in family values ​​and marriages. Many in the party support traditional gender roles and a paternalistic family system, arguing that allowing the double surname would destroy family unity.

In 2015 and 2021, the Supreme Court ruled that the one-surname policy was not unconstitutional, but urged parliament to debate the issue. But deliberations have stalled due to opposition from the ruling party’s conservatives.

Akari Takahashi, a 22-year-old wedding planner, said she never questioned taking her father’s surname until she traveled to Australia and her host mother expressed her dissatisfaction with the idea of ​​a uniform family name.

“Then I realized there was something wrong with it,” Takahashi said, adding that she couldn’t imagine having to make such a choice.

The rights gap between men and women in Japan is among the largest in the world, with Japan ranking 125th in a survey of 146 countries by the World Economic Forum for 2023.

AP video journalist Richard Colombo contributed to this report.

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