Japanese women want to keep their maiden names

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Five Japanese women are suing the government in order to change the law that says they have to change their names once they get married. According to the women, the law is ‘unconstitutional and violates married couples’ civil rights,’. They are also demanding compensation.

One of the women involved in the lawsuit, Kaori Oguni, who is a translator said

“By losing your surname … you’re being made light of, you’re not respected … It’s as if part of your self vanishes,”.

First of all, the law was passed back in the 19th Century. Secondly, it does not say which spouse has to change their names, but 94% of the time, it is the woman who changes her name. Thirdly, this is actually the third time Japanese women are going to court to fight for their right to keep their names.

In response to all these, a constitutional scholar said that “Names are the best way to bind families. He also said that allowing different surnames was a risk to social stability, the maintenance of others and the basis for social welfare.

Reading this immediately sparked my interest because it is an internal debate I’ve had with myself in the years that I’ve been married: Should I change my name?

Don’t get me wrong…I bear my husband’s name. I am Mrs Whathisnameis and everyone calls me that. Heck, I even tell people that’s who I am because it is who I am right?

It’s just that I’ve always felt that I am more than that. I immediately identified with the woman who said losing your name is like a part of yourself vanishes, and perhaps that is why I have not been so proactive about doing a change of name (the legal process for changing my name to my husband’s so that even though my certificates are in my name, I could still apply for a job in his name…or something like that anyway). So in my official documents, I still bear my name and not my husband’s name.

In my mind, when I refer to myself, I am still me. I don’t think that getting married should make me less of who I am. There is a document to show that I am married…do I also need to lose that part of my identity simply to satisfy some societal demands? I don’t feel as though being Mrs Somebody completes me (I was pretty much complete before I met him). So why do I have to change my name?

There are more questions than I have answers and at the end of the day, I will probably still change my name. Kyoto Tsukamoto, an 80 year old woman who is also involved in the suit made a statement: “I was born Tsukamoto, and I want to die Tsukamoto,”.

I could only nod as I read.

Source: Japanese women in court fight to keep their surnames after marriage | World news | The Guardian

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