Japan Institute for National Fundamentals

Speaking out

Eriko Yamatani

【#211】 Family as Basic Unit of Society Should be Protected

Eriko Yamatani / 2013.09.11 (Wed)

September 9, 2013

       On September 4, the Japanese Supreme Court ruled that a Civil Code provision for halving inheritance for illegitimate children is unconstitutional.
       In response to the ruling, Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said: “A legislative action will be a matter of course. We should take the action as soon as possible.” Justice Minister Sadakazu Tanigaki said: “I would like to humbly accept the unconstitutionality ruling and study it before taking a due action. Based on the purport of the ruling, we will immediately begin to consider what legislative action should be taken.” Media reports said the government may submit a Civil Code revision bill to the Diet during its extraordinary session planned to start in October.
       The Supreme Court decision should be taken seriously. But I believe that we should cautiously think about the ruling’s relationship with the family values and give priority to national sentiments.

National consciousness respects legitimate marriages
       Surely, the Constitution provides that all of the people are equal under the law. Even the Supreme Court’s majority opinion for the ruling says, “The inheritance system should give considerations to each country’s traditions, social conditions and national sentiments and cannot be separated from disciplines and national consciousness about marriages and parent-child relations.” “The consciousness respecting legitimate marriages has been widespread,” the opinion said, acknowledging Japan’s national consciousness supporting legitimate marriages.
       In a Cabinet Office poll on the inheritance disparity in 2012, 35.6% of respondents said the present system should be maintained, while 25.8% called for equal inheritance for legitimate and illegitimate children, 34.8% were undecided and 3.8% had no idea. Thus, a big portion of the people favored the present system. Many intellectuals have insisted that Japan has lagged behind Western nations in repealing discrimination against illegitimate children. But illegitimate children account for only 2.2% of all children in Japan, representing an incomparably lower share against 56% in France, 47% in Britain, 41% in the United States and 34% in Germany. It may be unreasonable to compare incomparable conditions.

Discussions on Civil Code revisions should be multifaced
       The Supreme Court decision has been explained as not denying legitimate marriages or promoting extramarital affairs. But it may help reduce the graveness of the marriage system. The family must be respected and protected as the basic unit of society. If the family as the minimum unit of society supported by the legitimate marriage collapses, family destruction and moral hazards may become prevalent to destabilize society.
       Illegitimate children should not be discriminated or bullied. Corrections to discriminatory treatments including those involving birth registrations should be discussed. At the same time, however, priority should be given to the protection of human rights for wives and children defended under legitimate marriages. Civil Code revisions should be prudently discussed from various angles.

Eriko Yamatani is a Liberal Democratic Party lawmaker in the House of Councillors.