Diet OKs Civil Code revision

Yomiuri Shimbun file photo
The Diet Building in Chiyoda Ward, Tokyo, Japan.

Tokyo (Jiji Press) — The Diet enacted legislation Saturday to revise the Civil Code, including changes to provisions on the presumption of legitimacy.

The House of Councillors approved the legislation at a plenary meeting the same day.

The change to the presumption of legitimacy is expected to help resolve the issue of children not listed on family registers, a problem that occurs as women who have had babies with men different from their former husbands soon after divorce choose not to submit birth reports to administrative offices.

The change will take effect by the summer of 2024. It is the first revision to the presumption of legitimacy since the Civil Code came into effect in 1898.

Before the amendment, the Civil Code stipulated that a child conceived by a woman during marriage was deemed as the child of her husband. A child born within 300 days of the mother’s divorce was considered the child of the former husband, while a child born after 200 days from remarriage was presumed to be the child of the new husband.

Women were banned from remarrying for 100 days after divorce, in light of the overlap in the period for estimating a baby to be the child of the former husband or the current husband.

Due to the presumption of legitimacy, some women chose not to submit birth reports to avoid the possibility of their former husbands being deemed the fathers of the children who were born to their new husbands despite the former husbands and the babies having no biological connection. This has been believed to be behind the issue of children not on family registers.

Of the 793 people not on family registers in Japan as of August this year, 563, or 71%, were unregistered because of the provision on the presumption of legitimacy, according to the Justice Ministry.

The revised Civil Code deems a child born to a remarried mother to be the child of her new husband even if the birth is within 300 days of divorce, while the 100-day remarriage ban was scrapped.

The revision also deleted a provision that guarantees parents the right to discipline their children, in order to prevent child abuse.

The Civil Code now bans corporal punishment and other acts that are physically or mentally harmful to the sound development of children.

The deletion of the provision on the discipline right will take effect on the day of promulgation.