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Japan law updates welcomed.



Japan Child Rights Network



Japan - New Divorcees Push for DNA Testing to Be Allowed to Prove Paternity of Newborn Children

Mainichi Daily News
January 8, 2007

Japan: Recently-divorced women are increasingly requesting that DNA testing be allowed to prove their newborn children's paternity, enabling them to be registered in their new husband's name.

The Civil Code currently stipulates that any child born within 300 days of the mother's divorce is recognized as being fathered by the mother's ex-husband. In order for such children to be entered in their new family register, the ex-husband must testify in court that he is not the father.

A 32-year-old woman living in Setagaya-ku, Tokyo, married her current husband in December 2004 after divorcing her previous husband six months earlier, and gave birth to her daughter in January 2005.

When she and her new husband registered their marriage at the ward office, she told an official that she was 10 months pregnant. At the time, the official told her that the child could not be registered in her husband's family register, citing the Civil Code clause.

The woman later discovered that she had to ask her former husband -- who had abused her repeatedly during their marriage -- to testify that the girl was not his child at a family court.

But after she submitted the results of DNA tests on her husband and daughter, and a testimonial from her new husband, the court officially recognized her daughter as the child of her new husband in June 2005.

"We did it as a special measure," a court official was quoted as telling her; but the woman says she wants this procedure to become more common.

"I want new rules to be worked out to allow children like mine to join in their fathers' family registries in a short period of time," the woman said.

Another 39-year-old woman, a resident of Morioka, still cannot register her daughter she gave birth to in October -- 266 days after she divorced her former husband -- in her new husband's family register.

The woman and her new husband have filed a lawsuit demanding that her divorced husband testify that he is not the father of her daughter.

"The rules should be amended to allow our daughter to join my husband's family register simply by submitting the results of DNA tests on my husband and daughter to the local government office," she said.

The Justice Ministry's Civil Affairs Bureau said it has no statistics on such legal disputes. However, the number of similar cases is believed to be increasing, experts said, noting that the proportion of remarriages is rising. (Mainichi)


The Sydney Morning Herald



Push to Ease Remarriage in Japan


Justin Norrie in Tokyo
March 22, 2007


A LAW that bans Japanese women from remarrying within six months of divorce may be eased following years of pressure from civil rights bodies and women's groups.

A group of MPs from the ruling Liberal Democratic Party is pushing to reduce the prohibition period to 100 days. The MPs said this week that the law, which was introduced in 1898 and applies only to women, was discriminatory and unreasonable, but they stopped short of recommending that it be scrapped altogether.

The law was created to help identify the biological father of a child born after a divorce.

However, another law presumes any child born within 300 days of a divorce to be the former husband's offspring - regardless of biological ties.

Because the second law also presumes that any child born on or after the 200th day of marriage is the current husband's child, the MPs argue that it is necessary only for a woman to wait 100 days before remarrying.

"Divorce is said to require a lot of energy and this stipulation gives women fewer opportunities for a second chance," Chuko Hayakawa, the leader of the group of MPs pushing for the law change, told The Asahi Shimbun.

"To begin with, it doesn't make sense for the stipulation to cover only women."

The ban on remarrying has been fiercely criticised in recent years. In 1998 the United Nations Human Rights Committee said it was "concerned that there still remain in the domestic legal order of the state party discriminatory laws against women". There is expected to be heated debate within the Liberal Democratic Party over the latest push.

The LDP group was originally set up to address the concerns of divorced women, who were pressing the Government to abolish the requirement that they register all children born within 300 days of a divorce under their former husband's name. They argue the law is anachronistic as it fails to take account of modern sexual relationships. The group plans to introduce draft legislation in the current parliamentary session.




Japan: Gender Biased Divorce Law Under Review

By Suvendrini Kakuchi

TOKYO, April 24, 2008 (IPS) - The birth of her baby four years ago was supposed to be a happy occasion for Masae Ito, 41. But she and her second husband were in for a nasty surprise at the registry office.

''I was told flatly by ward officials that the baby (legally) belonged to the husband I had divorced almost a year earlier. I could only gasp in disbelief,'' said Ito, a plucky woman who now manages a small non-profit organisation geared to support mothers in similar situations.

Ito is currently working hard to have changes made to the archaic Civil Code Law that prevents women from remarrying for six months after divorce and also prohibits babies born within 300 days of the divorce from being recorded under the family register of their biological fathers.

Only through a special court procedure, whereby the former husband testifies that the child is not his, can the problem be rectified. Husbands, however, are not covered under this law.

Japanese law calls for families to have family registers apart, from individual birth certificates. The register records the background of each family member and is maintained by the householder -- usually the husband.

Changing the contentious civil code -- established in 1898 to ensure a child is not illegitimate at a time when DNA testing did not exist -- is proving difficult.

Gender experts point to the ongoing debate in the Japanese Diet (parliament) on making a long overdue change to a legal stipulation that no longer makes sense as yet another example of official resistance to gender equality.

'The issue of not accepting the father of a child on the grounds that the mother was married to another man before, is beyond logic. The difficulty to change this irrelevant law reflects the desire on the part of conservative politicians to protect Japan's male-dominated society,'' Fujiko Sakakibara, a lawyer and gender expert, told IPS.

A bone of contention for conservative politicians in the ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) is that abolishing the law would break family values by encouraging divorce and possibly increase the number of children born out of wedlock.

Recent remarks by senior politicians referring to women in this situation as 'committing adultery'' have caused bitter resentment. Moves to soften the old law by accepting DNA testing or a doctor's certificate showing the date of conception or reducing to 100 days the wait for women to remarry, have only been met by even more resistance by activists.

'The whole case is a shame on Japan. It shows how Japan ignores the rights of women to start married lives afresh after divorce. Moreover, children are denied their right to register their biological father and mother. Laws take precedence over the happiness of women and children,'' says Yoko Sakamoto, editor of M-Net, an Internet publication that focuses on gender issues.

Indeed, Ito, who has advised more than a hundred women who grapple with this predicament, says many of them suffer mental anguish when they have to approach the courts to settle with their former husbands.

'There are cases where women are the victim of domestic violence and do not want to meet their former husbands ever. In other cases, the wounds from divorce can be still raw and it can be nerve wracking for women to be forced to meet and appeal to their former husbands for permission to register their new offspring under their biological fathers,'' she explained.

As a result of these difficult stipulations, activists have found hundreds of unregistered children in Japan. There is no official count because of the lack of concrete statistics, but cases recorded in the Family Courts, says Ito, indicate there are at least 3,500 children per year who go unregistered.
One consequence of the contentious code is that unregistered children cannot apply for national benefits or have a passport issued. A woman, quoted in the local media, said her new baby was born prematurely and does not have a family register. Both her second husband and she worry about medical bills.

However, last week, the government announced that it has decided to issue passports from May to children not registered due to the provisions of the code relating to recently divorced mothers. The gesture is a sign that the resistance by mothers is paying off.

Ito's own case is regarded as a landmark in the fight for equality. Rather than plead her case in court, she lobbied for help from politicians.

'I met with sympathetic politicians who introduced me to officials at the justice ministry. After long arguments I was allowed to register my child under a new family register without going to Court. But the law itself remained intact which is why I started my grass root movement,'' she said.

Activists hope to push the change before the current session of the Diet ends in June. Already the ruling LDP and its coalition partner, the New Komeito party, are discussing the matter to usher in a new legislation.

'We have to work step by step to change things and make Japan a better place for women,'' said Sakamoto.


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