Japan's Married-Name Law Isn't Just About Names

There's a tension between local traditions and international values.

Tradition can be beautiful.

Photographer: Yoshikazu Tsuno/AFP/Getty Images

Japan's Supreme Court has rejected an equality-based constitutional challenge to a law requiring couples to adopt either the husband’s or the wife’s last name. The decision is fascinating in its own right, reflecting the contemporary moment for feminism in Japan. It also raises a much broader question: How much should a constitution reflect the distinctive values of the society in which it operates, and how much should it express fundamental rights recognized almost universally?

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