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Those in favor of permitting married couples to have different surnames far outnumber those opposing it, according to a government survey released Saturday.

The Cabinet Office survey shows 65.1 percent of respondents favor the use of separate surnames by married couples while 29.9 percent oppose such a system.

The latest findings could pave the way for legal changes to allow the two-name system. Supporters of the system say they may submit relevant bills to the Diet during the extraordinary Diet session to be convened in the fall.

The percentage of people favoring the system is up from the 55.0 percent recorded in the previous survey in 1996.

According to the survey, 68.1 percent of women and 61.8 percent of men support the use of two surnames by married couples.

Among other findings, the survey shows that 42.1 percent support a revision to the Civil Code to introduce the two-name system, outnumbering for the first time those opposed to it, who accounted for 29.9 percent of respondents. The Civil Code prohibits married couples from using separate surnames.

The findings are likely to work in favor of legal changes that would pave the way for the two-name system. Justice Minister Mayumi Moriyama has said the survey would be an important factor in deciding whether to revise the Civil Code and other related laws.

The survey was conducted on 5,000 adults nationwide in May, 69.4 percent of whom responded.

The survey also shows that women in their 30s are the most enthusiastic supporters of the change, with 86.6 percent favoring it. Around 80 percent of men and women in their 20s and 30s support the system, according to the survey.

Asked if the two-name system would disrupt family unity, 52 percent responded negatively while 41.6 percent said it would weaken the sense of oneness in the family. The gap between these two groups widened from the previous survey five years ago.

Regarding the impact on children, 66 percent said the use of two names would impose an “unfavorable influence.” Only 26.8 percent said there would be no influence on children.

Among those who support revising laws to allow the two-name system, only 18.2 percent said they wanted to use their premarital names while 50.3 percent said they did not want to and 30.5 percent could not answer clearly either way.

The Legislative Council, an advisory panel to the justice minister, compiled draft legislation to introduce the system in February 1996 and was close to submitting the bill to the Diet.

Discussions have since stalled, however, due to opposition from Liberal Democratic Party lawmakers.

The appointment of Moriyama, known as a supporter of the two-name system, as justice minister in April raised hopes of a breakthrough on the issue. But opinions remain mixed, even among female lawmakers within the LDP.

Sanae Takaichi, an LDP Lower House member, criticized the system and said married couples feel unity through using the same surname.

“It’s better when surnames of married couples are one,” Takaichi said. “It’s a wisdom of Japan and a culture of excellence.”

Meanwhile, Seiko Noda, another LDP Lower House member, welcomed the results of the survey.

“Sense of oneness of family cannot be gained by being bound by the same surname,” she said. “(The survey result) is only natural given that the number of working women has been on the rise . . . We couldn’t go ahead (with legal changes for the two-name system) because opponents outnumbered proponents in the previous survey five years ago, but we would like to work on a revision to the Civil Code at an extraordinary Diet session this fall on the back of the latest survey.”

Fujiko Sakakibara, a lawyer familiar with the issue, said there is now a favorable environment for law revision.

“The laws should be revised (to allow the two-name system), for the system would not be compulsory but would allow people to have the option of using separate surnames,” she said.

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