I was reading about the recent electoral victory of the Democratic Party of Japan and the increase in the number of women in the Diet, when I came across this startling fact.
Japan’s government plans to submit legislation as early as next year to allow married women to keep their maiden names, the Yomiuri newspaper reported, citing unidentified government officials.
The bill will enable married couples to use separate surnames and children will be able to choose the surname of either parent, the Yomiuri said.
The change will make it easier for women in the workplace as more married females take up employment[.]
I wouldn’t have guessed there’s a first world country around today where women literally do not have the option to keep their real name and also get married. After poking around some more, it appears that the law doesn’t actually mandate women change their name to their husband’s, but that the couple must both choose the same last name. So, 97% of the time, it’s the man’s name.
This issue has apparently been kicked around before. Although in 2002, 65% voted in favor of abolishing the prohibition,
[T]raditionalists have roared back, arguing that allowing two-name families will promote excessive individuality, encourage the complete dissolution of the family and even create misunderstandings at mailboxes and gravestones.
“I understand it’s inconvenient for working women to change their surnames mid-career, but we should continue the existing system to avoid confusion and to give a good example to children,” said Sanae Takaichi, an LDP lawmaker. “Dual surnames are not part of Japanese culture.”
Of course, although maintaining the right to choose your own name despite being married would be a nice step, gender equality in Japan faces many other roadblocks:
Japan ranked 91st out of 128 countries in the World Economic Forum’s annual ranking of gender-equal countries presented on Thursday, the lowest ranking among all high income countries except for South Korea and five Middle Eastern countries.