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Male CEO to sue gov't over ban on use of different surnames by spouses

Cybozu Inc. CEO Yoshihisa Aono

A male CEO of a software firm is set to seek compensation from the Japanese government on the grounds that it is unconstitutional that Japanese couples have to stick to the same surname when they marry, whereas international couples do not.

Yoshihisa Aono, who runs Tokyo Stock Exchange First Section listed firm Cybozu, Inc., and a Kanagawa Prefecture woman in her 20s intend to file a lawsuit at the Tokyo District Court as early as spring next year and demand 2.2 million yen (about $19,300) in compensation. He argues that the different treatment imposed on Japanese couples and international couples goes against the supreme law that guarantees equality under the law. According to Aono's lawyer, this is the first time for a married man to file a lawsuit relating to married couples being allowed to use different surnames.

"In the same way that work becomes easier through diverse ways of working, being able to choose one's surname also makes life simpler," the CEO claims.

Having developed a strong reputation in the business world with his pre-marriage surname "Aono," the 46-year-old software specialist decided to continue using that name at work, despite the fact that he officially took on his wife's surname when he got married in 2001.

However, this approach led to some problems. As his surname had officially changed on his family registry, he was forced to update the names on his shares -- a process which cost him about 810,000 yen.

With women making advances in society, the number of people who want a system where married couples can choose to have separate surnames is increasing in Japan.

"The current situation contravenes the spirit of the Constitution. All that needs to be done is for the Family Register Act to be revised, and for the government to recognize the use of pre-marriage names," Tomoshi Sakka, lawyer for the plaintiff said.

Under Article 750 of the Civil Code, it states that "a husband and wife shall adopt the surname of the husband or wife," in accordance with what is decided at the time of marriage. While the Japanese Supreme Court ruled in 2015 that this stipulation was constitutional, five of the 15 justices, including all of the three female justices at the time, deemed it unconstitutional, and the top court's ruling was met by a strong backlash from the public.

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