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Sunday, February 13, 2011

Japanese women seek right to their own identity

TOKYO - FOUR Japanese women will go to court on Monday to challenge a law that now compels almost all females to drop their maiden names and assume their husbands' surnames when they marry.
The group - plus one of their husbands - want a civil code clause from the late 1800s declared unconstitutional and are seeking financial damages for their emotional distress at the Tokyo District Court.
The legal action comes after the centre-left government in power since 2009 failed in a push to revise the civil code because of stiff opposition from conservatives, including a minor ruling coalition partner. It is part of a drive for greater gender equality in Japan, where women still face strong social pressure to leave their jobs when they marry to handle household chores and raise children.
But the country's prolonged economic slowdown has prompted more women to continue their careers after marriage, often without changing their maiden names in the workplace, leading to growing calls for a dual-surname system.
One of the four women among the plaintiffs, Kyoko Tsukamoto, 75, said that having been forced to use her husband's name officially for more than half a century had caused her 'psychological trauma'.
'My name is a reflection of my self,' said Ms Tsukamoto, a retired school teacher who uses her maiden name for private purposes but must use her husband's surname on legal documents, her passport and her credit card. She declined to disclose that name to AFP. -- AFP

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