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In a first for Japan, Supreme Court judge to use maiden name

14 Comments
By Kyoko Hasegawa

A newly appointed female judge on Japan's Supreme Court has said she will use her maiden name when handing down rulings, a legal first in a country criticised for its attitudes to gender equality.

Married couples in Japan are required to have a common surname under a law that was upheld in 2015, sparking criticism from activists who complain it is sexist and outdated.

Social conservatives defend the law as crucial to maintaining Japan's traditional family structure but critics say it reflects a society that is still male-dominated and lags behind other advanced nations in terms of equality.

Yuko Miyazaki, 66, the country's sixth-ever female member of Japan's top court, confirmed to AFP through a spokesman that she "will use her maiden name" for judgements.

"It is natural for me to keep using the name I used as an attorney," she told local media, adding it was important to have the "option" of keeping a pre-marriage name as traditional values change.

The Supreme Court allows its officials to use pre-marriage names but Miyazaki is the first top court judge to choose to do so.

Japan ranked bottom of the G7 countries in the World Economic Forum's latest "Global Gender Gap Report", coming 114th worldwide.

It scored poorly on women's participation in the economy and political involvement, as only around 10 percent of the lower house of parliament is made up of female MPs.

Miyazaki said she was inspired to go into the law -- at a time when it was difficult for women to find a job -- by her father, who told her there was "no difference between men and women in court".

After graduating from the University of Tokyo's faculty of law in 1976 and Harvard Law School in 1984, she registered as an attorney before marriage with her maiden name Miyazaki.

She has won global recognition in legal circles as a corporate and tax lawyer.

But she was reportedly once turned away from a hotel in a foreign country because her professional name was different from her legal name.

The surname law, which dates to 1898, is a throwback to the country's feudal family system, in which all women and children came under the control of the head of the household -- overwhelmingly men.

That system was abolished in 1948 in broad reforms following the post-World War II US occupation, but Japan's civil code maintained the surname rule.

A December 2015 Supreme Court ruling said the law "does not violate the constitution", noting that changing one's name after marriage did not harm "individual dignity and equality between men and women", as maiden names can still be used informally.

Even though men can in theory take their wife's surname, in reality about 96 percent of married women in Japan take their husband's family name.

Men in Japan occasionally take their wife's surname to maintain that name if her family has no male heir.

On Tuesday, plaintiffs including Yoshihisa Aono, the male president of major software firm Cybozu, filed a lawsuit seeking compensation for mental anguish for being unable to use their maiden names, hoping to overturn the 2015 Supreme Court verdict.

Aono legally registered his wife's surname -- Nishihata -- upon marriage, but he uses his unmarried name for business purposes.

© 2018 AFP

©2018 GPlusMedia Inc.

14 Comments
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"what's in a name?

That which we call a rose,

By any other name would smell as sweet.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

That which we call a rose,

By any other name would smell as sweet.

OTOH, unless you tell your landscaper you specifically want roses in your garden, you may end up getting Skunk Lillies, which don't smell as sweet.

So names do matter.

0 ( +3 / -3 )

I have met Miyazaki-sensei. An amazing lawyer and a credit to her profession. Which is saying something.

2 ( +4 / -2 )

I’ve always thought this an odd battle to pick for feminists, since the maiden name is likely to be from the father’s side. It’s like a vegan refusing to eat meat while owning a leather handbag and using cosmetics tested on animals.

-2 ( +2 / -4 )

Bungle, feminists aren’t known for their logic skills for a reason.

-5 ( +2 / -7 )

Bungle - I understand your point as a counter to feminist arguments but emotionally I can't help but feel the name I have had since birth has become part of my identity and I struggle with the idea of giving it up.

1 ( +4 / -3 )

So, she can do it but others can't? And she is a judge no less?

Oh and one thing not mentioned in the article, yeah we can make an assumption, but it's not clear, is while she is using her maiden name, their is no mention of which "name" she was registered under when she got married.

Yes we can assume it's her husbands, but if that is true the case that is in the court now makes no sense to me, as it would make it appear that she is flaunting the law in a manner of speaking.

-2 ( +1 / -3 )

Bungle,

“I’ve always thought this an odd battle to pick for feminists, since the maiden name is likely to be from the father’s side.”

While that’s currently true, if Japanese couples were allowed to legally have different surnames, more children might be given (or even allowed to select) their mother’s surname. Women using their maiden name professionally is at least a start to giving people freedom regarding their own names.

Yubaru,

Since it says she uses her maiden name professionally and “her professional name was different from her legal name”, I think it’s clear that her legal registered name is her husband’s surname.

Also, some companies and organizations now allow the continued use of the ore-marriage name, and self-employed people can also. So no, it’s not just her

2 ( +3 / -1 )

Social conservatives defend the law as crucial to maintaining Japan's traditional family structure

Bah! The traditional family structure and family morals went out the window a long time ago in many countries like Japan ever since wives suffered domestic abuse, people were getting married and divorced willy-nilly, women getting pregnant before marriage (and in the case of Japan - then getting married, giving birth, then divorcing), and married people having affairs.

And usually, these conservative critics are the ones committing all these acts, the same way republicans are shouting out family values while having secret affairs and using rent-boys.

3 ( +4 / -1 )

Also, some companies and organizations now allow the continued use of the ore-marriage name, and self-employed people can also. So no, it’s not just her

Then why the legal case?

0 ( +1 / -1 )

Some change or changed to his wife's family name. Youshi. It is not rare in Yamaguchi prefecture.

Example. Abe's maternal grandfather was born in Satoh family. He became Nobusuke Kishi. His younger brother was Eisaku Satoh. Both of them were Japanese prime ministers. Kishi was using his wife's family name.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

When Meiji Ishin ordered all Japanese people to have family name, Ishin promoters decided they would have one more name. Thus, Kogorou Katsura had second name Kouin Kido. The person who designed Military system, Zoroku Murata became Masujirou Ohmura. He was assassinated but his statue is in Yasukuni Shrine, Kido is grandfather of Abe's Abeside Grandfather. So, this judge is not the first Japanese who have two names.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

Married couples in Japan are required to have a common surname under a law..

Except when a gaijin is married to a Japanese, where the Japanese partner can keep his/her family name. Isn't it a quite discriminatory exception to the rule?

4 ( +4 / -0 )

If this judge got law degree and qualified as an attorney before marriage, her maiden name will stick unless she take examination again after marriage. Similar with people who earn degrees in American Univ. Records in Japan treat you like you are 20 yrs old unmarried child if you notify you are old. retired.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

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