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A bill to revise the Civil Code to allow spouses to use separate surnames was submitted Friday to both houses of the Diet by members of the opposition camp. The bill was submitted by a group of 19 lawmakers from the Democratic Party of Japan, the Social Democratic Party, the Japanese Communist Party and New Party Sakigake. The content of the bill is identical to the one submitted to the Lower House in June 1998 that was scrapped without substantial debate. New Komeito, which had supported last year’s bill as a member of the opposition camp, this time refused to participate, said Keiko Chiba of DPJ, one of the lawmakers who submitted the bill. “We won’t be able to discuss the bill during the current Diet session but will seek a debate during the next regular Diet session,” which begins in January, she said. According to the bill, a child born to parents with different surnames would carry a last name decided upon by both parents. It would also remove the distinction between legitimate and illegitimate children with regard to inheritances. At present, children born out of wedlock are entitled to only half the property they would otherwise receive. The bill also says that women would not be eligible to marry until they turn 18. Currently, women are able to marry at 16 and men must wait until they are 18. It also states that women could remarry as early as 100 days after a divorce. The current law requires a woman to wait six months before remarrying to prevent problems in determining paternity should she bear a child. A February 1996 report by an advisory panel to the Justice Ministry made recommendations similar to those in the opposition-proposed bill. But the government gave up submitting any legislation because of opposition from within the ruling Liberal Democratic Party. Some LDP lawmakers say such a law could undermine Japan’s traditional family values.

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