Hi Blog. Colin Jones has come up with another insightful column, with a legalistic spine, in regards to how Japanese nationality has historically been awarded (until 1985, through fathers only, not mothers) until it was challenged. And, true to their nature in Japanese jurisprudence, Tokyo courts sided with the status quo (of discriminating against international children with Japanese mothers), and it wasn’t until the Diet amended the laws before they changed their tune. Yet, as Colin points out, the stigma still remains, especially in light of the debate regarding DP leader Renho’s true “Japaneseness”, a dual-nationality flap that never should have been an issue in the first place, –regardless of whether you are proponent of single nationality or double (I fall in the latter camp). Read the article for a breathtaking tour through Japan’s convoluted legal logic. Dr. ARUDOU, Debito
Renho nationality furor exposes Japan’s deeply embedded gender bias
by Colin P.A. Jones, The Japan Times, Sept. 28, 2016
Excerpts germane to Debito.org:
In short, decades after her birth, Renho is still being punished for having a Japanese parent who was female rather than male. Renho’s case thus offers a stark illustration of the deeply rooted structural impediments faced by women in Japan even today.
It also demonstrates the Japanese establishment’s general inability to acknowledge the past. The fact that such blatant government-sanctioned discrimination existed until the 1980s simply disappears into the memory hole, a hole that probably exists because the people who ran Japan back then are essentially the same as those who run it today.
Grossly oversimplified, the [Tokyo] high court found that the Nationality Act provision granting citizenship to children of Japanese fathers but not mothers was constitutional because that is all it says. It doesn’t go on to actively declare that children born to a Japanese mother may not obtain Japanese nationality — that would be constitutionality problematic! In fact, the act specifies the special circumstances in which nationality could be obtained through a Japanese mother (such as when the father was unknown).
The ruling goes on to note that the Diet had a choice of a general rule recognizing birth nationality to children of a) Japanese fathers, b) Japanese mothers or c) Japanese mothers or fathers, and it chose option a). It could have chosen b) too, which would also have been constitutional (though the notion that the male-dominated Diet would have done so is laughable, of course).
Finally, the court turned to its own inadequacies: Even if it found the Nationality Act unconstitutional, it would not result in the plaintiff obtaining Japanese nationality. The law would just be void rather than construed the way the plaintiff desired.
As is so often the case with decisions like these, the courts were at pains to show that there was a layer of kindness and sensitivity between their staid, heartless exterior and staid, heartless center. The high court makes all sorts of comforting statements about how the gender preferences expressed in the Nationality Act may no longer be appropriate. The court also addressed the possibility that the child plaintiff might be left stateless (but did not bother to mention the real-life impact the Nationality Act had on stateless children fathered by U.S. military personnel, particularly in Okinawa). Specifically, it noted that the situation was “makoto ni ki no doku na koto de aru” — truly a regrettable thing. “But,” it continues, “tough luck.” (I am paraphrasing.)
The more decisions I read like this, the harder it is to avoid concluding that Japanese courts at the time didn’t care about people in general, children in particular, equal protection or possibly even the Constitution — at least not enough to actually do anything beyond stringing really complex sentences together. It would have been interesting to see how the Supreme Court ruled on the matter, but that appeal was rendered moot in 1984 when the Diet amended the Nationality Act to allow Japanese nationality to be obtained from a Japanese mother also.