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Getty Images / Koichi Kamoshida

Japan Upholds Law That Married Couples Must Have The Same Surname

A group of women challenged a law from 1896 that requires couples to have the same surname, but they were unsuccessful.

By Melissa Prax | December 17, 2015

In Japan, married couples must have the same last name — which means in most cases, women take their husband's surname.

In 2011, a few women tried to challenge the 1896 law. But on Wednesday, Japan's supreme court ruled on the case, and it didn't budge.

"To me, in order to make a vow to someone, you need to suppress your own will," one of the plaintiffs said.

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Japan isn't the only country that upholds an older law deciding the fate of a woman's surname. Greece, France and Italy have laws opposite of Japan's — they make it illegal for women to take their husband's last name. (Video via Expedia)

Opponents see the Japanese court's decision as backsliding for women's rights, especially in a country where there's been a push to get more women in the workplace. (Video via The Financial Times)

Japan ranked 101 out of 145 countries in this year's World Economic Forum gender gap index.

Japanese marriages traditionally have focused on the two families becoming united rather than just the couple.

This video includes an image from Getty Images.

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