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Women still face 100-day wait to remarry

The remarriage law is linked to complex rules about the timing of a child's birth after divorce. (AFP)


Japanese women still face a 100 day wait before they can remarry following legal changes approved Tuesday by the country's cabinet, a move condemned as discriminatory by a UN rights group.

The approval, from conservative Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's administration on International Women's Day, came after Japan's Supreme Court ruled in December that the six-month waiting period for women to remarry after divorce was excessive and should be reduced to 100 days.

The revision, which will be submitted to parliament for approval, would also allow women to remarry immediately as long as they have medical proof they are not pregnant.

But the revision to the civil code, which dates back to 1898, is not enough to rectify Japan's sexist laws, the UN Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women said in a report released Monday in Geneva.

"The Civil Code still prohibits only women from remarrying within a specified period of time after divorce notwithstanding the decision of the Supreme Court, which shortened the period from 6 months to 100 days," the CEDAW report said.

It also condemned a Japanese law which requires married couples to share a common surname as discriminatory against women because it "in practice often compels women to adopt their husbands' surnames."

In December, the top court upheld the common surname law, which sparked criticism from activists who complain the rule is sexist and outdated.

The rules are a throwback to Japan's feudal family system, in which all women and children came under the control of the head of the household - overwhelmingly men.

That family system was abolished in 1948 as part of broad reforms pushed by the post-World War II US occupation, but Japan's civil code maintained the surname and remarriage rules.

The remarriage law is linked to complex rules about the timing of a child's birth after divorce - designed to determine whether a baby belonged to the ex-husband or the new spouse's family in an era before DNA testing.