Parental disciplinary rights an issue deserving multifaceted consideration

The Yomiuri ShimbunLaws on parent-child relationships are closely connected to the interests of the child. If difficulties arise, it is essential to fully consider the issue, including a review of the laws.

Justice Minister Takashi Yamashita has asked the Legislative Council to review parental disciplinary rights laid down by the Civil Code. This move comes amid the nation’s increasingly serious problem of child abuse.

The Civil Code states that a person with parental authority may discipline a child to the extent necessary to educate the child for the child’s interests. This article was originally established during the Meiji era (1868-1912) with the objective of admonishing a child for delinquency or other misdeeds. It is not a concept that directly recommends violence.

However, some parents attempt to justify abusing their children by hiding behind such rights to take disciplinary action. Appalling violence was inflicted in the name of discipline in two cases in which girls died in Meguro Ward, Tokyo, and Noda, Chiba Prefecture.

No matter what the reason may be, violence that harms the child’s interests is unacceptable.

The revised Child Abuse Prevention Law passed during the ongoing Diet session specifies for the first time that physical punishment must not be inflicted when disciplining a child. It also has a clause calling for a review of parental disciplinary rights within about two years after the revised law enters into force.

If the existence of the Civil Code clause on parental disciplinary rights becomes a barrier to eradicating violence from family homes, abolishing it also could become an issue up for consideration.

Attention should be paid to what problems might emerge if the Civil Code provision is dropped.

Is presumed paternity passe?

A 2011 revision to the Civil Code established a system under which a parent who had abused their child could be temporarily stripped of their parental authority. Eliminating parental disciplinary rights was also considered, but this plan was dropped due to concerns that parents would “become unable to impart even necessary discipline” on a child.

The fact that views on where the line on what constitutes “necessary discipline” should be drawn differs from person to person also was a factor.

Given that it can be assumed there will be various impacts on parent-child relations, discussions must be conducted from a wide range of perspectives and give top priority to protecting children’s lives.

The Legislative Council also was asked to review the rule of “the presumption of a child in wedlock.” This rule states that a child conceived by a married woman is presumed to be the husband’s child, and a child born within 300 days after a divorce also should be regarded as the former husband’s child. This has become a major cause behind the phenomenon of children not being recorded on their family register.

Consider a woman who flees from her husband due to domestic violence and then becomes pregnant by another man and gives birth around the time of her divorce. There are cases in which women decide not register the birth because they do not want the child recorded as their husband’s on the family register.

Not being on a family register creates various disadvantages for one’s life in society. The presumption of a child being conceived in wedlock was originally designed to quickly establish the father-child relationship and protect the child’s rights with regard to inheritance and other issues. The fact this rule is causing serious problems nowadays cannot be overlooked.

Some observers have suggested allowing exceptions to the presumption of a child being conceived in wedlock. New ways to prevent children from being left off the family register should be explored.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, June 21, 2019)Speech


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