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Kids born out of wedlock to gain Japanese citizenship?!

The government plans to revise the Nationality Law to remove a provision requiring parents to be married for their children to obtain Japanese citizenship, according to government sources.

The decision came after the Supreme Court ruled in June that denying Japanese citizenship to children born out of wedlock to Japanese fathers and foreign mothers is unconstitutional, the sources said.

The revision bill is expected to center on the following two points:

  1. Japanese fathers’ acknowledgement of paternity will be the sole requirement for children to obtain Japanese citizenship, removing the requirement for parents’ marital status from the provision.
  2. Those who have falsely claimed paternity will face imprisonment or a fine of up to 200,000 yen.

The government plans to submit a bill to revise the law in the next extraordinary Diet session after obtaining approval from the ruling coalition of the Liberal Democratic Party and New Komeito, according to the sources.The plaintiffs in the Supreme Court ruling were born out of wedlock to foreign mothers and Japanese fathers.

Though their fathers acknowledged paternity after the children were born, the children were not granted Japanese citizenship. Under the Nationality Law, children are not granted Japanese citizenship unless their parents are married or Japanese fathers acknowledge their paternity before birth.

The Supreme Court ruling said denying a child citizenship because his or her parents were not married was unconstitutional, saying the provision irrationally discriminated against such children.

The ruling also said the provision requiring marriage between the parents was already considered unconstitutional in 2003, when the plaintiffs submitted applications to obtain Japanese citizenship.

In line with the decision, the government plans to include a supplementary provision to enable children born out of wedlock to obtain Japanese citizenship retroactively for those who filed applications in January 2003 and after.

However, there is concern that the system could be abused if a child’s citizenship is approved solely through a father’s acknowledgement of paternity. For instance, foreign women living overseas might have Japanese men file false applications so that their children will be granted Japanese citizenship and the women would be able to obtain residence permits.

Under the current law, even if those who are not a child’s real parents submit an application for the child to obtain Japanese citizenship to the Justice Ministry’s Legal Affairs Bureau, they will not be charged. The revised law is planned to establish a new clause to punish such actions, according to the sources.

[Zurui’s Comment] So what does this all mean? For one, it will hopefully help foreign women in Japan and overseas -especially those countries promoted as “asobi” (play) spots- gain entitlements for their children. The plan to revise the Nationality Law is a major step especially considering that  Japan has no cultural norm of parental rights. I believe that the contrast in family law is a direct reflection of different cultural norms. Japanese culture makes a sharp distinction between persons within one’s inner circle, and persons who are not.

In Japan, when divorced spouses leave one another’s inner social circle, the separation applies to their entire household. The result of the separation is that the noncustodial parent leaves the inner circle of his or her child as well. So it is not that Japanese law disregards parental rights, but rather that the Japanese law reflects the Japanese conception of social parenthood. Socially, the noncustodial parent is no longer regarded as a parent. Typically, men in Japan (as in the United States) usually are the noncustodial parent, so having a law that will grant citizenship to children born out of wedlock to Japanese fathers and foreign mothers is actually kind of amazing.

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