Experts and citizens groups for and against constitutional amendment are speaking out as the Diet resumed discussion on the supreme law on Nov. 16, under Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's administration's strong push for the move.
Among various proposals raised at the Commission on the Constitution at the House of Councillors by representatives of ruling and opposition parties, debate was especially heated around Article 24 of the Constitution, which is themed on marriage and family.
"Article 24 hasn't attracted much attention thus far and people are not sharing a sufficient sense of crisis about revising the provision," said Aisa Kiyosue, associate professor at Muroran Institute of Technology and one of the organizers of a citizens movement called "24 jo kaesasenai campaign" (Campaign against revising Article 24).
Kiyosue, an expert on the Constitution and family law, criticized the draft revision to the supreme law proposed by the ruling Liberal Democratic Party, which adds provisions to Article 24 to the effect that "families are basic units in society" and "family members must help each other." "For the government to meddle in the ways families are infringes upon the right to freedom and runs counter to the spirit of the Constitution, which is based on individualism," she said.
Keiko Ota, a member of the Young Lawyers Association for The Future of Freedom (ASUWAKA) that organizes study sessions called "Kenpo Cafe" (Constitution cafe) in different parts of the country, also focused on Article 24 at one of those sessions. "The (LDP's) draft constitutional revision thrusts household responsibility on women under the pretext of 'mutual cooperation.' That sums up the philosophy of pro-amendment forces, which detest individualism," Ota told citizens attending the session.
Meanwhile, Nippon Kaigi (Japan Conference), a conservative group rallying behind constitutional reform, cites Article 24 as one of the key subjects for amendment. A member of the group's policy board criticized the provision at lectures, saying, "Japanese people would go extinct if we only value respect for individuals and gender equality."
Article 24 of the Constitution stipulates that "Marriage shall be based only on the mutual consent of both sexes and it shall be maintained through mutual cooperation with the equal rights of husband and wife as a basis" and that "With regard to choice of spouse, property rights, inheritance, choice of domicile, divorce and other matters pertaining to marriage and the family, laws shall be enacted from the standpoint of individual dignity and the essential equality of the sexes."
The LDP's draft constitution, meanwhile, states, "Families shall be respected as natural and basic units of society. Family members must help each other" and that "Marriage shall be based on the mutual consent of both sexes and it shall be maintained through mutual respect with the equal rights of husband and wife as a basis." It continues, "With regard to the family, dependents, guardianship, marriage and divorce, property rights, inheritance and other matters pertaining to kin, laws shall be enacted from the standpoint of individual dignity and the essential equality of the sexes."