Five Japanese women are suing their government over a law that forces women to take their spouse’s surname after they get married, saying it is unconstitutional and violates their civil rights. “By losing your surname … you’re being made light of, you’re not respected … It’s as if part of your self vanishes,” said Kaori Oguni, one of the five women who filed the lawsuit. Women have to juggle their maiden name for professional use, and their married name for legal and other official documents. Some couples have chosen to not register their marriage so they can keep separate names, but that can lead to legal trouble over parental and inheritance rights. Two courts have previously ruled against the women, but a new decision by the Supreme Court is expected on December 16. The issue of separate surnames is a divisive one in Japan, with conservatives arguing it could damage family ties and threaten society, while others believe it is time for a change in a society that has become more focused on the individual. Public opinion is also divided: according to a poll in a liberal newspaper, 34 percent are against choosing your own surname, while 52 percent — including most younger people — are in favor of being able to choose.
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