Woman forced to use her husband’s surname at work

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Anna Pollitt

A court in Japan has ruled that a woman must change her surname at work because she is married.

The teacher, who has requested anonymity, was told her employer's demand that she use her husband's surname was "rational" by three male judges in Tokyo, The Guardian reports.

The woman, who is in her 30s, launched a lawsuit against Nihon University Daisangakuen, in a bid to be able to use the name she was born with in a professional capacity.

Having worked at schools affiliated to the university for 13 years, she argued that her surname was already well known to colleagues, pupils, parents and to a wider audience through her published academic research.

But her case and claim for £9,500 (1.2 million yen) in damages was dismissed. In their reasoning, the judges cited a newspaper poll of 1,000 female workers that found more than 70% used their husband’s name at work.

woman in japan

The ruling a is a blow for gender equality in Japan

They acknowledged that though more women were choosing to not change their surnames after they married, the practice is “not deeply rooted in society”.

"I do not want to separate my name and my personal accomplishments, such as writing reference books and giving lectures before marriage,” the teacher said after the ruling.

The decision “destroys a workplace environment that allows people who had to change their surnames to work without undue worries,” she added.

It's the latest challenge to Japan's male-dominated culture. Last year five women lost a high-profile case against the 19th century law that states married couples must share the same surname - which in 96% of cases is that of the man.

One of the women who launched the challenge, Kaori Oguni, said: “By losing your surname…you’re being made light of, you’re not respected…It’s as if part of your self vanishes.”


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Anna Pollitt

Anna is a freelance writer and editor who’s been making her dime from online since 2007. She’s a regular at, ITV News and Emerald Street and moonlights as a copywriter and digital content consultant. The baby is borrowed.

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