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Woman sues gov't over 'right to deny paternity' only granted to husbands

KOBE -- A woman from Hyogo Prefecture and her family members sued the government on Aug. 24 at the Kobe District Court, claiming that the right granted only to husbands to deny their paternity of a child born to their wives is unconstitutional.

    In what is believed to be the first lawsuit in Japan over the constitutionality of the right to deny paternity that is only granted to the husband, a 60-year-old woman, her daughter and two grandchildren are demanding 550,000 yen each from the government.

    According to the complaint filed with the court and other sources, the woman submitted a birth notification of her daughter, whose biological father was her then partner, with the partner's name as the baby's father in 1986, after the divorce with her ex-husband was finalized. Since Article 772 of the Civil Code stipulates that "a child conceived by a wife during marriage shall be presumed to be the child of her husband," however, the birth notification was not accepted because the woman's daughter was presumed to be the ex-husband's child.

    The woman then requested for court mediation to have the partner's paternity of her daughter recognized since women cannot file for the denial of their husbands' paternity. She subsequently decided to drop the case, however, after the judge told her that testimony from her ex-husband was necessary. She had separated from her ex-husband due to domestic violence and was worried that she and her family would be in danger if the ex-husband found out her whereabouts.

    Given such a background, the woman's daughter and her two grandchildren were left without a family registry. The woman claims that the system that only grants husbands the right to deny paternity of a child caused her family psychological pain due to such things as not being able to obtain passports.

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