• JIJI, Kyodo

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Heckling heard during a recent meeting at the Diet may spark active debate within the ruling Liberal Democratic Party on a dual surname system for married couples, with opinions on the issue still divided in the party.

At a news conference Monday, LDP Policy Research Council Chairman Fumio Kishida said that “we should hold discussions as needed” on whether to allow couples to continue using their respective surnames after they get married.

“People with conservative views are increasingly requesting the party to consider allowing the use of separate surnames in order to preserve family names,” he added.

During last Wednesday’s plenary session of the House of Representatives, a female lawmaker shouted out that people who want to have separate surnames “just don’t have to get married.”

The heckling came as Yuichiro Tamaki, head of the major opposition Democratic Party for the People, called for the introduction of a dual surname system. Opposition parties blasted the remark as outdated and discriminatory, and claim it was made by LDP lawmaker Mio Sugita, who has refused to comment on the matter. The LDP has not confirmed that Sugita made the remark.

During the Lower House discussion, Tamaki was sharing the story of a young man who was told by his girlfriend that she did not want to get married because she would then need to change her surname. The Civil Code and the Family Register Law require the use of a single surname by members of the same family.

Although the Civil Code does not say which of the partners must give up their surname on marriage, it is customary for a wife to take her husband’s surname.

Many within the LDP, especially conservative lawmakers, remain firmly opposed to the dual surname system. But some conservative lawmakers also argue that retaining original surnames should be allowed to preserve the family names.

Since the heckling, more within the LDP have started to speak out in support of such a move from the viewpoint of diversity.

“It’s desirable for us to have multiple options,” Environment Minister Shinjiro Koizumi told a news conference Friday.

“I want to create a society in which people can live based on their own values. I’m positive about giving (couples) such an option,” Koizumi said.

“I think it’s probably about time for the country to adopt the dual surname system,” former Defense Minister Gen Nakatani, a veteran LDP lawmaker, said on TV on Sunday.

At a Lower House Budget Committee meeting Monday, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe stressed the need to create a society that respects diversity, but did not comment on whether he leans toward introducing the system.

Asked by an opposition party lawmaker whether the heckling was actually done by Sugita, Abe declined to comment.

Also on Monday, Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga repeated the government’s conventional stance, saying, “We’ll carefully consider the issue while closely watching the course of debates at the Diet.”

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