Ruling on Nationality Law spurs revision

Kyodo News

The Justice Ministry will start work on amending the Nationality Law following a landmark Supreme Court ruling Wednesday.

The top court ruled that a clause stating that the parents of children born to foreign mothers and Japanese fathers must be married for the children to be recognized as Japanese is unconstitutional, as well as the clause that only grants nationality if the Japanese father, even in out-of-wedlock cases, comes forward before a child is born, but not after.

“We accept the ruling,” Justice Minister Kunio Hatoyama said at a meeting of the House of Councilors Committee on Judicial Affairs. “We must take steps toward amending the Nationality Law.”

The ministry instructed its regional bureaus Thursday morning not to reject applications for Japanese nationality from such children on grounds that they do not meet conditions under the current law, although the ministry has yet to decide what status such offspring should have until the amendment, ministry sources said.

The Nationality Law’s Article 3 states that children born to Japanese fathers and foreign mothers outside marriage are not eligible for Japanese nationality if the fathers do not recognize them as theirs before birth. If the fathers recognized them before birth, the children are granted Japanese nationality regardless of the parents’ marital status.

“Innocent children should not suffer disadvantages on account of their parents’ circumstances and their status should not be left in limbo,” Hatoyama said.

In Wednesday’s ruling, the Grand Bench of the top court granted nationality to all 10 children born out of wedlock to Japanese fathers and Filipino women who had filed lawsuits, ruling that the clause goes against the Constitution’s guarantee of equality.