Help children who are unregistered for reasons beyond their control

The Yomiuri ShimbunIt is imperative to prevent anyone from becoming unregistered because registration of their birth has not been submitted for some reason of their parents. It was highly significant for the judicial authorities to refer to the necessity of implementing necessary measures in a recent court ruling.

In a lawsuit over the propriety of a Civil Code clause regarding the denial of legal fatherhood, the Kobe District Court has acknowledged the appropriateness of the provision. The clause in question states that the right to take to court one’s claim that there is no father-child relationship must be exercised within one year after learning about the birth, and that the right is exclusive to husbands. This provision has remained unchanged since the Meiji era (1868-1912).

The regulation is aimed at confirming the father of a child at an early stage and protecting the child’s right to inherit property and receive dependent care. The latest ruling concluded that “the reasonableness of the provision can be confirmed.” It apparently attached importance to the fact that the clause has played a certain role in ensuring the stability of parent-child relationships.

The ruling came after a woman in her 60s, her daughter and two grandchildren had demanded the government pay damages.

While living apart from her husband to escape his violence, the woman had a daughter with a different man. A birth registration designating the man as the daughter’s real father was not accepted. This was because the birth registration ran counter to a Civil Code provision that presumes, from a legal point of view, that a child conceived by a woman during her marriage is a legitimate child of her husband.

The woman gave up on submitting her daughter’s birth registration for fear of having her child’s existence become known to her husband. In the trial, she asserted that if one’s wife and children had the denial-of-legitimacy right, her daughter and grandchildren would not have become unregistered.

Change law’s application

Although the ruling rejected her demand for compensation, it showed understanding for her position. The ruling referred to the necessity of extending support for women who lodge suits for divorce and protecting the personal information involved. The decision makes sense, as it took into consideration the realities of aggravating spousal violence.

According to the Justice Ministry, a total of 1,495 people have so far been confirmed to be unregistered. The unregistered status of close to 80 percent of these people is due to the Civil Code stipulation. A support group for such people estimates that there are actually more than 10,000 unregistered people.

As a general rule, a person cannot obtain a residence certificate or a passport if they are unregistered. It is also difficult for such people to rent apartments and open bank accounts. This situation that hinders their daily lives must be improved.

The ministry has said it will reinforce measures to eliminate the unregistered status of these people. They include cooperation among regional legal affairs bureaus, family courts, the Japan Legal Support Center and bar associations in assisting unregistered people to obtain family registers. It is indispensable to help people who hesitate to carry out procedures for obtaining family registers because of the psychological and financial burdens involved.

To begin with, efforts should be made to develop a mechanism to prevent anyone from becoming unregistered due to reasons of their parents that they cannot control.

The ruling suggested, as an option, granting a wife the denial-of-legitimacy right under certain conditions, such as if her child’s biological father acknowledges the child as his own. There also seems to be room to improve the current situation through changes in the application of the law, such as expanding the scope of permission for the biological father of a child to acknowledge the child as his own without the involvement of the husband of a child’s mother.

Unregistered children shouldn’t be blamed for their status. It is important to take support measures by placing priority on helping such children first and foremost.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Dec. 3, 2017)Speech


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