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Tamayo Marukawa, Japan’s new minister for the Tokyo Olympic and Paralympic Games, has come under fire for joining a campaign against a selective dual surname system for married couples.

Gender equality is one of Olympic ideals, and Marukawa concurrently serves as minister for gender equality. A growing number of politicians across party lines are questioning her qualification for the ministerial posting.

Marukawa and conservative lawmakers of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party have asked local assembly members in writing to prevent the adoption of petitions calling for a selective dual surname system. Such a system would lead to the collapse of a social system based on family units, the document said.

The document, dated Jan. 30, was endorsed jointly by 50 lawmakers from both chambers of parliament, including former internal affairs minister Sanae Takaichi and Keiji Furuya, the former chairman of the National Public Safety Commission.

According to sources, the document was sent to about 40 prefectural assembly heads affiliated with the LDP.

The joint request was made before Marukawa, an LDP lawmaker, assumed the post of Olympic and Paralympic minister on Feb. 18. But she told a news conference on Feb. 24 that she had signed the document in line with her personal beliefs.

After an opposition lawmaker urged her to create a system enabling married couples to use different surnames at a House of Representative committee meeting on the same day, Marukawa only said her role is to support an environment that allows people to hold in-depth discussions.

Her ministerial appointment was triggered by the resignation of Yoshiro Mori as chairman of the Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics organizing committee to take responsibility for making remarks that were said to be demeaning of women. Marukawa succeeded Seiko Hashimoto, who replaced Mori.

At a news conference Friday, Yukio Edano, leader of the main opposition Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan, said Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga should be held responsible for appointing Marukawa. Edano also said her policy attitude proved that it is impossible to create a selective dual surname system under an LDP government.

On a television program Sunday where female lawmakers from various political parties discussed gender equality, Tomoko Tamura, policy chief of the Japanese Communist Party, said: “(Marukawa) should stop standing in the way (of people working toward a dual surname system). She bears very grave responsibility.”

LDP Executive Acting Secretary-General Seiko Noda, who is pushing for a selective dual surname system, said on an online program Thursday, “We are not working as lawmakers on the basis of personal feelings but we represent (the people).”

Another senior LDP official also expressed displeasure with Marukawa. “She is apparently trying to please conservative members of the public, but there will be much more to lose,” the official said.

Some local assembly members have also criticized the move by Marukawa and others.

Takumi Tamura, chairman of the Saitama Prefectural Assembly, who received the document, said on his blog: “It’s displeasing. I’m sick of their lack of understanding about a selective dual surname system.”

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