Japan’s Supreme Court has decided to uphold the country’s lower court rulings that a Civil Code clause allowing only husbands to disavow paternity of their wives’ children does not violate the Constitution’s guarantee of gender equality.

The Civil Code allows husbands to file a disavowal of their paternity within a year of learning about the birth of the child. The law also has a clause stipulating that children conceived by women during marriage are assumed to be the offspring of their mothers’ husbands.

In August 2018, the Osaka High Court found the clause allowing only husbands to disavow paternity to be constitutional, upholding a Kobe District Court ruling in November 2017.

The high court said that wives are not parties to father-child relationships, while husbands have a direct interest in denying paternity because they would be exempted from child support duty and be able to exclude the child from their heirs.

The court also said that provisions related to presumption of paternity are designed to swiftly settle the father-child relationship status. It would not be irrational to give wives and children the right to legally disavow paternity, but such a change is a matter that should be handled by the Diet (the country’s bicameral legislature), the court also said.


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