Last updated: 12 january, 2011 - 17:22 GMT

Japanese government faces legal challenge over marital surname law

A bride wearing the traditional bride's costume travels on a baod on the Kitatone River in Itako, Japan (file photo)

Only a small number of Japanese men opt to take their spouse's name

Five people in Japan are to file a potentially groundbreaking lawsuit against the government, to try and get a law changed which forces couples to have the same surname.

The group say the civil code violates equal and personal rights for married people.

While women are able to use their maiden names at work, they must use their registered surnames for official documents.

If the group succeed, married Japanese men and women will be able to keep separate names if they wish, removing a major obstacle to gender equality in Japan.

Machiko Osawa is a Japanese academic living in Tokyo.

To play this content JavaScript must be turned on and the latest Flash player installed.

Play in either Real OR Windows Media players

First broadcast 12 January 2011

related bbc links

BBC © 2014 The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.