Japan to rule on over century-old sexist family laws
Japan's family laws put half-year ban on remarriage of divorced women and require them to adopt their husbands' surnames (Representational image)Getty

Japan's apex court will rule on two of its family laws considered gender discriminatory later this week. The 19th century laws are often dubbed sexist as both tend to control women's freedom of choice.

One of the laws disallows women to remarry within six months of divorce, reports AFP. The ban, critics say, was intended to determine if a child born to a divorced woman belonged to her ex-husband or the new spouse. It was implemented in an era when DNA testing was not available.

"These laws mean a woman remains under a man's sexual control even after divorce," mother and activist Masae Ido said, stating how this half-year ban on remarriage pushed her into a judicial ordeal to get her baby registered with the real father's name. Ido's child with her second husband was born soon after she divorced her first husband. This meant that under the remarriage law, her first husband was the legal father of the baby even though biologically he was not, she explained.

To get the real father's name on the baby's birth certificate, Ido first had to ask the former husband to publicly disown the child and then she had to sue her second husband (the baby's biological father) to claim his paternity. "My child was finally registered after this bizarre legal procedure," the 50-year-old activist said.

The other bygone-era family law the fate of which will be decided by the court requires all women and children to have the same surnames as the man of the household. This law dates back to the country's feudal family system, which has long been abolished. Activists and women anticipate Japan's Supreme Court to abolish both the laws.

"Even if the feudal family system is long gone, many people still have the image of a woman marrying into the husband's household," the report quoted Waseda University law professor Masayuki Tanamura as saying.