January/March 2005 No.134

Marriage Discrimination to Occur in Kyoto
Abuse of Position by Judicial Scrivener

In July 2003, a marriage discrimination case was referred to the Kyoto Prefectural Association of the Buraku Liberation League for consultation. The case regarded an engagement that faced strong objection from the parents of the engaged man on the grounds that the woman involved was from a Buraku family, a fact the woman had not been aware of.

When Akira (not his real name) told his parents that he wanted to marry Kyoko (not her real name), his parents firmly opposed to his plan, producing two copies of Kyoko's family register, which the parents had acquired some time before. His parents and brother pointed out that one of the copies revealed her father's permanent domicile to be within a Dowa area. The copy of her mother's family register, however, showed no Dowa connections.

Akira immediately told Kyoko who was very shocked, especially since she had not been aware that her family was from a Buraku. To make matters worse, Akira's father went to Kyoko's house on the following day to inform her mother of their objection to the marriage. Faced by this situation, Kyoko sought help by contacting the Kyoto Prefectural Association (KPA) of the BLL.

Kyoko and her mother visited the office of the KPA and told them that she and Akira had formed a relationship after working together as colleagues. Since Kyoko had not lived in a Buraku area since her childhood, she never knew of her Buraku origins. Kyoko's mother said that she had not faced any objection from her parents at the time of her marriage and that they had said, "As long as he (her fianc?, i.e. Kyoko's father) is good person, we do not oppose your marriage." Due to this lack of opposition, along with the fact that her mother had divorced her father some time beforehand and did not have any contact with her ex-husband's relatives, she never felt it necessary to tell Kyoko about her father's origins.

The KPA asked Kyoko to come again with her fianc? Akira to gather further information regarding Akira's parent's possession of Kyoko's family registers. Later, Akira came to the office with Kyoko and told the KPA officers that his parents stubbornly denied what they had been accused of having said and denied having copies of Kyoko's family register.

According to the Kyoto City Ordinance for Protection of Personal Information, Kyoko submitted a request for disclosure of application forms for copies of her family register to Kyoto City in an attempt to identify who had acquired the copies. After repeated applications for disclosure, it was finally revealed that the applicant requested copies not only of Kyoko's family register, but also that of her mother and her late grandfather on her mother's side for the purpose of legal proceedings or registry, which neither Kyoko nor her mother had any memory of. When the application forms were disclosed by the city office, the names and addresses of the applicants had been deleted for protection of privacy. Nothing could be found to help identify the applicants except that the application form itself was one that was only for the use of lawyers, judicial scriveners, tax accountants and other legal professionals who require state-licenses to practice.

Kyoko did not know any such professionals. At first, the city authorities refused to reveal the name of applicant due to legal reasons. But finally after six months, the applicant's name was located and revealed to be a legal scrivener who had allegedly been asked to acquire copies of the family registers by Akira's parents.

To date, the KPA has discussed the case several times with Kyoto city authorities together with Kyoko and Akira. KPA has also questioned the judicial scrivener and Akira's parents.

On February 23, the KPA negotiated with the Kyoto Regional Legal Affairs Bureau regarding the incident.

Mr. M. Noguchi, Vice President of the KPA, and 39 other people attended representing the BLL, while Mr. Maekawa, the Director of the Kyoto Legal Affairs Bureau, and five other people represented the government.Mr. Noguchi firstly raised the incident and pointed out, "The family registration system itself helps to preserve system discrimination."

Mr. Maekawa stated, "Marriage discrimination constitutes a grave violation of human rights, so we are investigating into the incident." Mr Hirose, the chief of the Human Rights Protection Department, answered, "Judicial scriveners fall under of our jurisdiction. One of our departments is now investigating the matter." Another officer also said, "The case in which a copy of somebody's family registration is acquired for a purpose other than those that are legally specified may constitute a crime."

Mr. Maekawa pointed out that the Association of Judicial Scriveners has not received human rights training, nor have they been given guidance by the Ministry of Justice, and concluded that the Ministry would send human rights educators to them if necessary.