An unmarried couple filed a suit Monday with the Tokyo District Court, demanding that the justice minister and the mayor of Tokyo’s Nakano Ward pay 4 million yen in damages and nullify family registry records that list their daughter simply as “female,” indicating she was born out of wedlock.

The pair charge that the listing is discriminatory and violates the Constitution, which states that everyone is equal before the law. It is also a violation of their privacy, the couple said.

The plaintiffs — Sumiko Tanaka, 52, Noboru Fukukita, 52, and their 14-year-old daughter — say it is the first lawsuit that demands nullification of a discriminatory registry listing.

The couple, who now reside in the western Tokyo suburb of Musashino, also filed a suit in 1988 demanding the discriminatory entry be corrected in resident registration papers.

That suit was one factor behind the Home Affairs Ministry’s decision to unify listings in residency registers as “child” beginning in 1995.

According to the lawsuit, rules stipulated under the Family Registration Law require children born to a legally married couple to be registered using such terms as “first daughter” or “second son.”

Children born out of wedlock are registered as “male” or “female.”

The plaintiffs maintain that the registration exacerbates the social discrimination against such children, and that not only does the practice run counter to the Constitution but also violates the U.N. Convention of the Rights of the Child, which Japan ratified in 1994.

Tanaka told reporters the same day that while the discriminatory practice was corrected in resident registry papers, it still exists in family registration documents.

“Japan and France are the only industrialized countries that treat children born out of wedlock separately,” she charged, adding that people’s lifestyles have become more varied and the age in which the state can say that not being legally married is wrong is over.

“The time is now ripe for revisions to the system,” she said.

In 1988, the couple filed a suit stating that separate registries in the residency papers was discriminatory. Although the Supreme Court rejected the suit last January, the Tokyo High Court said the registry formats were a violation of the Constitution.

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