Two Controversial Laws Resolved in Japan

February 17, 2016

Unlocking Word Meanings

Read the following words/expressions found in today’s article. 

1. vindicate / ˈvɪn dɪˌkeɪt / (v.) – to defend against opposition
Example: The politician could not vindicate his personal use of public funds.

2. discriminatory / dɪˈskrɪm ə nəˌtɔr I / (adj.) – showing unequal treatment
Example: She left the company because she felt it was discriminatory.  

3. outdated / aʊtˈdeɪ tɪd / (adj.) – no longer useful
Example: The company removed its outdated rules.

4. conservative / kənˈsɜr və tɪv / (n.) – a person who prefers traditional or established ways to do something
Example: The conservatives strongly opposed the controversial bill.

5. uphold / ʌpˈhoʊld / (v.) – to reinforce a decision
Example: The court upheld its decision despite appeals from the accused.   


Read the text below.
The Japanese Supreme Court vindicated a law stating that married couples must share a surname. However, it declared a separate law that restricts women from remarrying within six months after a divorce as unconstitutional.

The same name law was passed in Japan's Meiji Era and was retained even when the feudal system that originated it was abolished. It carries the belief that a marriage is a bond between two families, not two individuals. Although it doesn't specify which name married couples should use, 96% of the time, it is the husband's surname that is used.

The law was challenged by a couple in a civil partnership and three women on the grounds that it was unconstitutional, discriminatory, and outdated. Their efforts, however, were opposed by conservatives who argued that two surnames would be harmful to the traditional family unit. The Supreme Court ultimately sided with the conservatives and upheld the same name law.

The second law, which prohibits women from remarrying until six months after a divorce, was similarly challenged and eventually found unconstitutional. It was also established in the Meiji Era and was meant to determine the paternity of a child born shortly after the divorce. It was criticized as outdated in light of the accuracy of modern pregnancy and paternity testing, and as unconstitutional in consideration of the constitution's commitment to gender equality. However, even though the Supreme Court deemed the law unconstitutional, the law may still be retained if the six-month waiting period is decreased.

Viewpoint Discussion

Enjoy a discussion with your tutor.  

Discussion A

·         Do you agree that a marriage is a union between two families, and not two individuals? Why or why not?
·         Do you think traditions should change as time passes? Why or why not?

Discussion B

·         What traditions are still practiced in your country? Please discuss your answer.
·         What traditions are no longer practiced in your country? Why are they no longer practiced?

February 17, 2016