A Shizuoka couple in their 20s filed a lawsuit Thursday over the six-month ban on remarriage for newly divorced women, calling it unconstitutional. They are seeking ¥3 million in compensation.
A related measure has left the couple’s 5-month-old son without a koseki entry in the family register, plunging the boy into legal limbo and potentially depriving him of education and recognition by the state.
Despite living together as if they are married, the woman, who divorced her former husband in May, has one month to go before she can formally marry her new partner. The ban ends in November.
“Six months is longer than you may think. We love each other. We live together. We have our own child. I don’t understand why we still can’t get married,” the man told a news conference in Tokyo. “All we want is to live happily together as a family.”
The six-month ban on remarriage is “unconstitutional” as it amounts to a violation of a woman’s right to freedom and equality, impedes the pursuit of sound family and filial relationships and hurts the wellbeing of children, according to the lawsuit filed with the Tokyo District Court.
Dating from the Meiji Era (1868-1912), the century-old Civil Code measure is out of date, lawyer for the plaintiffs Yasuhito Ono said, noting that nations such as Germany, France and South Korea scrapped similar clauses in 1998, 2004 and 2005, respectively.
The measure was introduced to decide the paternity of children born immediately following a divorce. With advances in DNA technology and with divorces on the rise, the ban “does not reflect the needs of today’s society,” Ono said.
A U.N. committee on the elimination of discrimination against women has repeatedly called on Japan to drop the ban. In November, the Supreme Court is expected to hear a similar case brought by a woman in Okayama Prefecture and, on a separate date, hand down its first judgment on its constitutionality.
The couple’s son was born in early May, a few weeks before the mother’s divorce was finalized.
She did not register his birth at the time because under the Civil Code a child conceived during marriage is automatically recognized as having been fathered by the husband.
This clause has forced the couple to begin a court process to get the judiciary to acknowledge that a biological relationship exists between the son and his father.
But, their lawyers say, this could take years, leaving the child unregistered for an indefinite period of time and “isolated from society,” as the complaint puts it.
“Being unable to register him made us feel as if our son were not allowed to exist,” the father said.
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