Bill leveling inheritance rights hit for falling short

Kyodo

The Cabinet approved a bill Tuesday to amend the Civil Code so that it will grant the same inheritance rights to legitimate and illegitimate children in line with a Supreme Court decision in September, but critics say it falls short.

The Diet is expected to pass the bill during the current session, which ends Dec. 6, because the opposition parties, including the Democratic Party of Japan, are likely to support the legislation.

The Supreme Court ruled Sept. 4 that the provision stipulating that children born out of wedlock are legally entitled to only half of the worth of an estate that their “legitimate” siblings inherit is against the constitutional principle of equality.

But civic groups and experts are upset because the bill fails to strike from the family registration law a clause stipulating the need to register a child’s legitimacy at the time of birth.

“Even the fact that someone may see information about whether your child is ‘illegitimate’ on a birth registration may be painful,” said Yoko Sakamoto of the mNet-Information Network for Amending the Civil Code. “Are all those who oppose (striking the clause) incapable of understanding the feelings of others?

“Leaving (the system unchanged) may only encourage discrimination,” she added.

Sakamoto emphasized that regardless of the Supreme Court decision, “It is the government’s responsibility to take any necessary measures (to change the status quo).”

Sumiko Tanaka, representing a civil group that for years has demanded the abolition of the discriminatory clause in the family register system, also lashed out at the inaction to strike the stipulation.

“I can’t accept the fact that such unnecessary provisions are to be sustained,” Tanaka said. “When can we expect (them) to be amended?”

Masayuki Tanamura, a professor at the faculty of law of Waseda University, also expressed his disappointment.

“It was hoped that this would become a milestone enabling us to eradicate such discrimination,” he said.