The Japanese government wants to raise the number of fathers taking paternity leave from 2016's 3 percent to 13 percent by 2020, but two recent court cases show how hard it can be for some fathers to take their legally mandated paternity leave — especially if difficult pregnancies complicate the situation before the child is born.

On paper, mothers and fathers are entitled to take child care leave (ikuji kyūka) at the same time for up to a year and receive two-thirds salary for the first six months and half salary for the second six months. However, eligibility depends on having worked for your current employer at least a year and expecting to be employed a year later.

Despite this, maternity harassment is a longstanding problem in Japan (see Hifumi Okunuki's 2014 column, "Maternity harassment verdict benefits women, men — and our humanity"). Known in Japanese as matahara, this can take the form of physical or mental harassment, contract nonrenewal, dismissal or any other disadvantageous treatment in response to a women's pregnancy, childbirth or raising of a child. It's against the Labor Standards Law, the Equal Employment Opportunity Act and a third law, whose drafters worked overtime to name: the Act on the Welfare of Workers Who Take Care of Children or Family Members, Including Child Care and Family Care Leave.