Japan to reform 19th century law that registers ex-husband as father of child born within 300 days of divorce

The rules are a part of 19th century civil code adopted after the Meiji Restoration and are largely considered to be outdated

Sravasti Dasgupta
Friday 04 February 2022 13:35 GMT
File: Japan has moved to reform century-old paternity rule under its civil code
File: Japan has moved to reform century-old paternity rule under its civil code (Getty Images/iStockphoto)

Japan has moved to reform a century-old law under its civil code that presumes the paternity of a child born within 300 days of a woman’s divorce to be that of her former husband’s.

On Tuesday a government panel drafted the outline of a legislation to change the rule under the 120-year-old civil code, reported Jiji Press.

The panel also said pregnant women should be allowed to remarry without waiting 100 days after getting divorced as required under current law.

The laws are at present part of the civil code, a comprehensive body of laws passed in 1896, a few decades after the Meiji Restoration.

Under the current law, a baby born 200 days after the mother’s marriage is presumed to be the child of the mother’s current husband, while a child born within 300 days of the mother’s divorce is deemed to be the child of her previous husband.

The rules are considered to be largely outdated especially for women who have left abusive marriages and do not want their child to be named after the abusive spouses.

Several remarried women also choose to not register their babies with local governments under the family registry or koseki, which deprives their children of their nationality.

According to a ministry of justice survey, more than 70 per cent of the country’s 825 unregistered people -- or 591 -- as of January 2022, said that they had not registered to escape abusive former husbands.

The panel also recommended giving mother and child the right to deny paternity, bringing them at par with fathers who enjoy the right at present, reported Nikkei Asia.

The panel is expected to submit its recommendations on 14 February to Justice Minister Yoshihisa Furukawa.

A legislation amending the rules is expected to be passed this year.

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