In what is seen as a setback for women’s rights, the Japanese Supreme Court has ruled that married couples in the country must use the same surname — which in 96% of cases means that of the husband. Five women had filed a lawsuit arguing that the 19th century requirement was sexist and violated a couple’s civil rights. They launched their lawsuit in 2011, asking for damages of 6M yen ($50,000) for the “emotional distress and practical inconvenience of having to take their husband’s name.” The women had hoped that prime minister Shinzo Abe’s push to include more women in the workforce would help their cause. Conservative politicians and commentators were opposed to a law change because they believed it would damage the traditional family unit. “Names are the best way to bind families,” said Masaomi Takanori, a constitutional scholar, before the verdict came down. “Allowing different surnames risks destroying social stability, the maintenance of public order and the basis for social welfare.” Japan now remains one of the few industrialized countries where it is illegal for couples to have different surnames. In a smaller victory for women in the country, however, the court decided that a law preventing women from remarrying for six months after they divorce was in violation with the constitution’s commitment to gender equality, cutting the remarriage time down to 100 days.
Read the full story at The Guardian.