Justice Minister Daizo Nozawa said Monday that steps will be taken to stop family registry birth records from distinguishing between children born out of wedlock and those born to married couples.
A district court ruling last week acknowledged that distinctions of this kind constitute violations of privacy.
“We take note of the judgment and will consider a form of family registration that takes into fuller account the need to protect privacy,” Nozawa told a session of the House of Councilors Audit Committee.
Currently, children born in wedlock are registered as “eldest son” or “eldest daughter” and so forth, while those born out of wedlock are registered simply as “female” or “male.”
On Tuesday, the Tokyo District Court, while turning down a demand for damages from an unmarried couple and their child, ruled that marking a child born out of wedlock differently in a family registry violates privacy rights.
Plaintiff Sumiko Tanaka, 56, was elated to hear Nozawa’s statement, saying: “If it is realized, Japan’s discriminatory family register system will change hugely. It is a wonderful thing.
“Separately from the suit, we were planning to urge the Justice Ministry to immediately redress the problems pointed out by the ruling.”
Tanaka filed the suit with her common-law husband, Noboru Fukukita, 56, and their 18-year-old daughter. “I was happy to hear the justice minister’s remarks,” she said.
Nozawa also advocated revamping the current Civil Code, which discriminates between children born out of wedlock and those born to married couples in terms of the inheritance they receive.
“It is a worldwide trend not to discriminate. The Civil Code has become very antiquated and we must consider things bearing current trends in public opinion in mind,” the minister said.
Yet it may take a while before lawmakers decide to revise the Civil Code, as some lawmakers in the ruling coalition are against the idea of change.
In keeping with the court’s ruling, the Justice Ministry may register all children in the same fashion, regardless of whether their parents are married.
Numerous lawsuits have been filed over the discriminatory nature of registration.
Tanaka, Fukukita and their child had also filed a separate lawsuit in 1988 to have a similar distinction on residence certificates erased, fighting all the way to the Supreme Court, where they lost.
But their actions led to a change in March 1995 by the then Home Affairs Ministry that unified descriptions for children born both in and out of wedlock.