It is unconstitutional for the government to refuse Japanese nationality to a 7-year-old boy of Japanese-Philippine parenthood born out of wedlock and later recognized by his Japanese father, the Tokyo District Court ruled Wednesday.

It is the first time a court has ruled that a provision of the Nationality Law violates the Constitution, lawyers for the plaintiff said.

The boy’s mother filed the lawsuit seeking to confirm that her son had the right to obtain Japanese nationality.

“It is unreasonable not to grant Japanese nationality for the reason that his parents are not married,” presiding Judge Toshihiko Tsuruoka said in his ruling.

“The Nationality Law, which distinguishes between children of legally married parents and children born out of wedlock, violates the principle of equality before the law as ensured by the Constitution,” Tsuruoka said.

Under the Nationality Law, a child will be given Japanese nationality if either of the parents in a legal marriage is Japanese. A child born to a Japanese father and non-Japanese mother can therefore obtain Japanese nationality if the parents are married.

A child born out of wedlock can still obtain Japanese nationality if the father acknowledges the child before birth, but not if the child is recognized after birth.

Tsuruoka said that given today’s diverse values, it is difficult to say that a normal family is only one in which the parents are legally married, and that making a distinction on the issue of acquiring Japanese nationality based on the parents’ legal relationship is unreasonable.

Genichi Yamaguchi, one of the lawyers, told a news conference that the boy’s father said he was happy upon hearing the news.

“It was a courageous ruling,” Yamaguchi said, adding that the lawsuit was important because it concerns the “identity” of the boy, who is now in elementary school.

According to the court, the mother arrived in Japan in 1992 and she and the father, who was married at the time, became acquainted. The woman gave birth to the boy in 1997 and the father filed official recognition papers in 1999.

The mother filed a request with the Justice Ministry’s Legal Affairs Bureau to obtain Japanese nationality for her son in February 2003, but this was denied.

The boy and his mother live in the Kanto region.

The father continues to live with his Japanese family and visits the boy and his mother regularly on weekends. The father also participated in his son’s school activities when the boy was in kindergarten.

“(The boy, his mother and the father) do not live together in full form, but it can be established that they live as a family since they stay in close contact with each other,” the judge said.

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