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Japan Takes Steps To Change Law That Requires Women To Always Take Husband's Name

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The debate around whether or not you decide to take your husband’s name when you get married has been raging for a few years now, but whichever side of the argument you sit on, at least here in the UK you are able to decide for yourself. Indeed, there has even been an increase of 3% in men taking their wife's surname in the last few years, and many couple's choose to double-barrel their surnames.

In Japan, women aren’t so lucky, with only a few loopholes available to those who wish to keep using their maiden names. The exceptions include professionals, who wish to continue using their maiden names at work, and female judges, who can sign rulings with either name. But apart from this, it becomes a legal headache to keep your name officially, something that has led several women to sue the Japanese government to change the law, arguing that it violates a couple’s civil rights.

A lawyer representing a couple challenging the law in Japan emphasised the important effect it will have on attitudes to marriage and gender equality: ‘I think it has a strong effect on the mindset of the people,’ Tomoshi Sakka told The Economist. ‘It creates the idea that a wife is to follow her husband after marriage.’

While public feeling in the country is largely in support of the change, there are conservatives who insist that the 1896 law should be upheld in order to maintain traditional gender roles. When a woman takes her husband’s name in Japan, she transfers from her family’s entry on their national register to her husband’s.

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