Citizenship and migration: Questions of identity and belonging

English: Coat of arms of the Philippines

English: Coat of arms of the Philippines (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

by Mayumi Futagami

As I read the article “Citizenship and immigration: multiculturalism, assimilation, and challenges to the Nation-State,” I am reminded of my own family’s multi-cultural experiences with Japanese culture and Filipino culture. The book says that “immigration challenges and reaffirms identity” (Bloemraad, 2008) I also think that is true, because immigration makes you know and acknowledge a new environment in which you will be found out anew. These new things will change your knowing about the culture that you used to know.

Citizenship is important to have a legal status of “belonging to a country”. I know that we should belong to a country to group ourselves. However I have this kind of doubt for those people who have double blood lineage of other countries. Do we really need to be divided? How can we answer questions such as: What is your nationality?

In a situation in which you are born in the Philippines, your mother is Filipino, and your father has Japanese nationality, because of visa problems these parents have to apply for you to have Japanese citizenship because that citizenship makes it easier to go abroad. They think of your future. For instance my sister is “half” Japanese and Filipino. When you ask her what her identity or nationality is, at home she will proudly say “I am both Japanese and Filipino”, however when you asked her outside (e.g. supermarket, malls, schools) here in Japan, asking “Are you Filipino?, she will say “urusai” means “shut up”.

I feel that citizenship also matters through images. The rule of Japan that you could have a dual citizenship until age 22 is like just giving you time to think. It makes it really complicated for those young people for they are forced by the imagined tradition of the society. Citizenship makes the pressure of participation model in the society (ibid). When you say that your citizenship here in Japan is different, even if you have the lineage blood of Japanese you may feel a little shame. For as the transnational says about the image of your home country or maybe the home country of your mother or father, maybe both, does make differences good or bad. You may also think is true for the superiority of the country in which you live (e.g. comparing Japan and Philippines).

I don’t really feel ashamed of where I come from in social saying that I have Filipino and Japanese blood. However, it makes me feel sad and embarrassed when they compare those 2 countries in culture or tradition or daily lifestyles. It is because when they say something about it I feel like a little loss of which identity. I feel that why do we need to choose between 2 nations to find citizenship?

Sweden adopted dual citizenship in 2001 (ibid.). I envy this kind of policy in some points that when I am here in Japan I could say that “I am Japanese”, and if they say that “no you’re not”. I could say that, “even though I am Filipino I have Japanese citizenship.” As well as I go back to the Philippines I could also say the same thing because I already have the both culture that already compiled in my daily life.

Migrating for me here in Japan at first was a big challenge for even though I am Japanese in DNA, I felt at that time I am completely Filipino. However, as I migrate here and my father is Japanese I could find myself that I have the capacity or right to have the citizenship of Japan. I applied for it and did easily get it. I just feel it’s strange that we really need to have one kind of citizenship to define what kind of people we are. And some are forced, for there is what they called the “beautiful culture” of Japan and some “bad image” of the Philippines (in which people come to Japan to find jobs) which affects children.

Of course there are some exceptions of having the citizenship of the host country, e.g. Japan. Either you are born there, live there for long years, or marry a citizen there. This could happen to people who are old (come for work) or young people (come for education), etc. Taking Japan as a place where people migrate, there are many people do this and that they could find some loss of identity. Even though they are fully strangers in the host country, they feel that they somehow belong to it for they were able to adopt the culture and lifestyles.

A friend of mine in school here also feels that even though she is not really Japanese she could feel that she “culturally” and “traditionally” belongs to Japan. I don’t mean that it is citizenship that matters, I just mean that citizenship relates to identity. I see that citizenship is easy to answer when you never been out of the country. However as you try to move, taking the question where I belong is a really hard question, especially when you need to choose. I think it is not a matter of the society but also matters from your family decision of what to choose. I thought one reason was the importance of culture, or how advantageous it is to have that citizenship in the country or even overseas.

That is why I feel that citizenship matters in many aspects, where you belong, what you take important the most (culture or superiority), and more. In my point of view, citizenship is a hard thing to choose. However if I just think which is better for my future, Japan or the Philippines, maybe I certainly choose Japan as my citizenship for it will be easy for me to travel abroad.

South Korean citizenship and military service

South-Korean military musician

South-Korean military musician (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

by Yoon Jee Hyun (JeeJee)

South Korea, an unstable peninsula under the idea of democracy, has continuous anxiety on the never-ending possibilities of warfare with the Communist country of North Korea. Due to this country’s precarious diplomatic situation with its neighbor, having a strong military system is a highly significant governmental role to achieve in South Korea. In order to have a concrete military system, male Korean citizens have to serve in the army for about 2 years, except in the cases of fourth-generation only son, child patriarch, persons with disease, and persons who have foreign citizenship. Once a male person has “South Korean citizenship”, it is his fate to enlist in the army.

From the reading of “Citizenship and Immigration: Multiculturalism, Assimilation, and Challenges to the Nation-State”, Bloemraad, Korteweg, and Yurdakul define ‘citizenship’ in four different dimensions: legal status, rights, political participation, and a sense of belonging. Simply to identify citizenship firstly as a legal status means people can get citizenship status by their own birth place or parental origins or through naturalization process. Citizenship as rights grants authorities such as basic rights to the people from the state while individual has to obligate state’s set rules. Citizenship in terms of political participation is that people are privileged to actively participate politically to shape the nation whereas the state itself can govern its people within its territory boundaries. Lastly, people have ‘in-group’ feelings by sharing the same community under the suggested definition of citizenship as sense of belonging by Bloemraad and her co-authors. All these four different dimensions integrate altogether; the notion of citizenship can be enhanced and can be advanced.

In case of South Korean citizenship, I think the emphasized meaning of citizenship as ‘rights’ plays an important role. The nation (South Korea) provides rights to its citizens such as rights to a basic education and rights to be able to live in a healthy environment. Vice versa, South Korean government can impose rules to Korean citizens that people should and have to follow. This both-way obligation process related to rights of citizenship could facilitate military service system in South Korea.

In other words, under the status of ‘Korean citizenship’ and male gender, the people are obliged by governmental law to protect their family, friends, and the nation through entering 2 years of military service.

Reference

Bloemraad, I., A. Korteweg, & G. Yurdakul. Citizenship And Immigration: Multiculturalism, Assimilation, And Challenges To The Nation-State. Annual Review of Sociology34, 153-179.

Refugeeism and Denizenship

by Asuko Sugino

First of all, I’ll talk about the definitions of “refugeeism” and ”denizenship”, secondly I’ll refer to where refugees or denizens might belong to instead, and then finally I’d like to mention an example of one refugee in the Philippines who made the organization working for equality and social justice.

The word “refugee” in Precarious Japan by Anne Allison is used in a broad sense. That is to say, it indicates everyone who doesn’t have the place where they can feel comfortable or a sense of home, rather than the people who live in a tent in a refugee camp. She declares to us that this refugeeism has become “ordinary” in Japan which can’t provide “ibasho” for the citizen, citing many examples of “net café refugees” or “temps”. These refugees cannot be equal to non-refugees in various ways (shelter, stable salary, guarantee for future).

On the other hand, “denizen” in this article doesn’t include the above-mentioned examples such as Japanese net café refugees or temp workers. Refugees don’t have “ibasho” but “citizenship” at least. “Denizen” lacks not only secure job, where to return but also their own citizenship, therefore they are not regarded as citizen but resident alien. I think that “denizens” lacks both of equal status and rights, while “refugees” lacks just equal status. To make the worse, according to Anne Allison, denizenship is made use of and exploited by global capitalism because denizens have no choice but to stand working at low wage, with short-term contract and few benefits. Additionally, this system using denizen labors is plotted on purpose and the number of them will increase.

Now, where do they find alternative “ibasho”? In my opinion, both of refugees and denizens tend to seek it at anti-social organizations such as gangster organizations or crime syndicates, because society robbed them of essential status and rights. Some decide to soak themselves into drugs or alcohol without seeking alternative “ibasho”. However, some people try to alter by themselves the wrong social system, facing the reason why the society failed to give them the benefits to be granted. The following is one example.

In the Philippines, 10 years ago, one 16-year boy named Eflen Penyaflorida living in a slum in Manila was worried about the future of his hometown. The children surrounding him supported their families’ living by gathering garbage, so most of them don’t receive an education and become gang members as they grew up. He hoped the gangs in Manila would disappear by receiving enough education to gain ordinary jobs. He established “DTC (Dynamic Teen Company)” and started teaching the children by himself breaking down their parents’ opposition. Now, the scale of the organization is as large as the school and it was awarded a prize by CNN. Eflen didn’t look for his new “ibasho”, but create it by himself.

Everyone cannot make their own “ibasho” by their hands, still we have the responsibility for trying to make the proper place for “refugees” or “denizens” instead of anti-social places, as a member of the society.

Reference

Allison, Anne. 2013. Precarious Japan. Durham, NC: Duke University Press.

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Denizenship and refugeeism

by Shiori Nabeshima

In the sliding-down society, as Anne Allison expressed the Japanese circumstances, once people slip off to the bottom, it is hard to climb up to recover the former situation. It seems that the ‘angle’ is becoming sharper than before to make more people slide down. It means that even though the top or middle and bottom people are all Japanese, the gap between them in terms of equality and rights is widening. Especially temporary or contracted workers are overworked like slaves to support the society. Where are their rights of citizenship? Are they actually regarded as citizens? In Precarious Japan, Allison uses the words denizenship and refugeeism.

Essentially in Britain, the people who are categorized as ‘denizens’ are foreigners who are granted a status similar to resident aliens. Resident aliens have usually rights such as residential, social and economic right, but not electoral rights. It shows that some countries guarantee basic rights to foreigners. Although not all countries give all rights to foreigners, the citizens should have guaranteed all rights by their countries.

Most of people, such as net café nanmin, temp or contracted workers and the working poor which Allison mentioned in her book, are Japanese. Even though they are Japanese, some of them do not have fixed residences, cannot receive security as citizens and are struggling to live on minimum wage. Some of them are paid less than needed to receive welfare, but their welfare applications have been denied.

Right now, their rights are below denizens, such as non-citizens. Therefore Allison introduced the new word “refugeeism”. Refugeeism is as the spread of the nation-state made “belonging to the community into which one is born no longer a matter of course and not belonging no longer a matter of choice”. Being disconnected makes them to be refugees. In the story of Moyai, many precariats were estranged from their family or feel alone because they are precariats. This is led by the notion of winners and losers. Frequently, society rejects those who are in precarious situations. It sometimes makes people join hate groups or cults. As with the experience of Karin Amamiya, the people who are members of hate groups or cults tend to accept precariats. If the others or society accept them, they do not need to join such group.

Japanese society should become more tolerant to those who are precarious and prevent them to fall from the safety net.

Reference

Allison, Anne. 2013. Precarious Japan. Durham, NC: Duke University Press.

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“Making a choice” or “forceful separation”?

by Kyungyeon Chung

On the walls of immigration bureau offices in Japan, one can easily spot posters regarding dual citizenship. As the Japanese government does not recognize dual citizenship of its citizens, these posters usually say something along the line of  “let’s make it clear: choose your nationality,” “make a choice: no more duality.” Somehow, the rhetoric of posters seems to suggest that dual citizenship is unclear, undesirable, and duplicate, and thus a negative thing.

Today, in the face of increasing immigration and the growing flow of goods, services and persons across state borders, the concept of dual citizenship has arisen as a politically hot topic. While some argue that the recognition of dual citizenship is simply a legislative act that allows freedom, many believe it means more than granting of an extra passport. Opponents for the recognition argue it will complicate bureaucratic administration for the government. However, the most prominent argument behind the opposition is that the concept is not compatible with what “citizenship” entails. Citizenship has long been associated with state-control over its people – ‘citizenry’ – and, as T.H. Marshall defined, “a claim to be accepted as full members of the society” (Bloemraad, Korteweg & Yurdakul, 2008). Dual citizenship effectively challenges this idea of state-control as it allows the person to be a member of two separate societies, eligible for two separate sets of privileges, and obligated to two separate sets of duties.

Screen Shot 2014-05-26 at 1.17.07 PMThe confusion it causes is understandable. However, forcing one to choose one citizenship over another – the father’s over mother’s, the birth country over the country of residence, or vice versa – is this reasonable? In an opinion article from the New York Times, Mark Krikorian, the executive director of the Center for Immigration Studies argued that, for US nationals, engaging in dual citizenship basically means renouncing US citizenship, and is an absurdity that should be prohibited (2014). However, having two passports cannot possibly mean that one is betraying their ‘native’ country. For many immigrants, their children, and expatriates around the world, dual citizenship is about having freedom of association. Just because a person has moved from his/her native country to another, it does not mean he/she automatically renounces, forgets, or even wants to distance from the past. As time passes their emotional attachment and/or political participation can grow in both countries. In such situations, denying the chance of dual citizenship forcefully imposes what a person’s identity should be or where his/her allegiance should lie – does this not qualify as an infringement on freedom of personal choice? It effectively forces them to officially renounce their past so that they can be ‘loyal’ citizens of the present country of residence. If that’s what opponents want to achieve by invalidating dual citizenship, how effective could this possibly be anyway in forming allegiance?

It is more likely that dual citizenship is an irreversible and unavoidable occurrence in the face of globalization. Multiple national, racial and ethnic identities will continue to grow unabated no matter what governmental policies are in place. Recognizing multiple nationalities may be a nuisance for many governments, especially the ones who believe in their perceived ‘homogeneity’. Yet, eventually, the time will come that they have to admit the presence of diversity within the artificially set state borders.

References

Bloemraad, I., Korteweg, A., & Yurdakul, G. (2008). Citizenship And Immigration: Multiculturalism, Assimilation, And Challenges To The Nation-State. Annual Review of Sociology, 34(1), 153-179.

Krikorian, M. (2014, January 30). An exclusive relationship. International New York Times. Retrieved May 18, 2014, from http://www.nytimes.com/roomfordebate/2012/05/14/can-dual-citizens-be-good-americans/citizenship-should-be-an-exclusive-relationship

法務省 (The Government of Japan Ministry of Justice). (n.d.). 国籍選択について (About choosing nationality). Retrieved May 18, 2014, from http://www.moj.go.jp/MINJI/minji06.html

 

The need for greater social connections in Japan

Note from Editor: Students are reading Anne Allison’s book Precarious Japan, and sharing their thoughts on how their own future plans are impacted by the instability and insecurity that Allison describes.

by Jea Jeongmin

Due to the aging society in Japan and the nuclear disaster of 3.11, getting a stable job or living comfortably in Japan has become uncertain in terms of the economic situation in contemporary Japanese society. In addition, since I do not have Japanese citizenship, I will not be able to have a  that has something to do with governmental officials. In this situation, getting a stable job in Japan would be hard for me so that my future plan in Japan will be quite narrow.

Personally, I would like to get a job with high salary to feed my family in my future. There are two conditions in order to achieve its aim, that is, getting a regular job and getting high stable salary for long. However, in contemporary Japanese society, there are many contract workers or part-time workers, due to increasing mobility of employment. It is not guaranteed that I will be able to get a job after I get fired from a company. Also, even regular workers have to work for long with low wages. Therefore, to be honest, working in Japan is unsuitable for me, so I would like to work in different countries, such as United States.

Also, trying to get connection to other people in order to get engaged in society is important because I have a strong desire not to get involved in a society in which individuals are isolated and have few personal links between each other. My ibasho is the place where people accept me as who I am, such as my family, friends around me and my future working place, because my definition of ibasho is the place where I am able to be the way I am or use my own abilities the most.

In my opinion, creating social connections with other people is essential. Due to rapid aging of the population resulting from the decline in the birth rate, the recession made worse the situation of single households being isolated from society. Also, number of an unattended deaths and the suicide rate in Japan are increasing. This is happening in Japan because people have fewer connections with each other and they feel lonely. In order to get social connections, I must be a member of society. Although there are many worries about my future, the first thing I will do is to find the place where I will be able to show my ability the most and get social connection with other people.

Reconsidering Japan’s Denial of Dual Citizenship

by Ji Soo Kim

An anonymous writer on the internet started her sentence with, “I am a Japanese mom and sold my son to France today.” The writer’s family has been living in France for 20 years, and she made her son acquire French citizenship so that he could  take state examination and receive state scholarship.

The writer said “people back home think we are no longer good patriots. But they cannot imagine how much we miss our home. The patriotism grows bigger when we live abroad.” Making a big choice, the mother wished Japan’s allowance of dual citizenship. She was scared that losing Japanese citizenship would have a negative effect on her son’s Japanese identity.

Having dual citizenship means that two countries recognize you as their citizen. Currently, Japan does not allow dual citizenship. Citizens of dual citizenship must choose one or the other before turning age 22. Japan is not an ethnically diverse country and Japanese government fears chaos the interferences of foreign human resources will bring. Allowance of dual citizenship will make many citizens to lose their patriotic heart toward Japan. Additionally, there are people who misuse and abuse dual citizenship to avoid certain laws or to request special admissions.

The reasons to not allow dual citizenship are reasonable. However, on the other side, global human resources and patriots will be lost due to inevitability of making a choice such as the case mentioned above. Japan in a need for further globalization could be helped by the globally raised children. As the Japanese child in France chose French citizenship, he will not come back to Japan and work for Japan; rather he will work for France. In these cases, Japan is not only losing a globalized future workforce, but also a citizen who could show nationalism. The possibility for this family to come back to Japan and live decreased, and there are many other families in the same situation.

Current Japan believes that there are more cons to pros in allowing dual citizenship. But is this true? Isn’t Japan losing other important things? Looking case by case, it is beneficial not only for the individual but for the nation to give some individuals dual citizenship. As the world is becoming smaller and a country can no longer stay as a pure nationalistic country, Shouldn’t Japan consider a way to benefit both the individual and the nation within the control of dual citizenship?

Reference

www.blog.daum.net/tourparis/8493699

The headaches and the blessings of dual-citizenship

by Jonas Horvei

It is said that humans are born. In some way this is true, nevertheless there is also heavy restrictions imposed on each individuals. Such restrictions could for instance be the place where you are born, your parents, the economic power your parents have, the passport you hold, and whether you have dual-citizenship or not. In a world that continues to become more and more globalized traveling abroad and working abroad are steadily becoming increasingly important for many individuals who want to experience life in a different country than where they grew up.

While of course the economic power of the individual and his family is often the biggest determiner, this time I want to talk about dual-citizenship and the challenges it imposes on the individuals. With increasingly more intermarriages, we also see a surge in people who are eligible for dual citizenships. While I think in many cases this can be an incredible blessing. For instance think of an American citizen that also holds the passport of Sweden. Normally for an American working in most places in the EU is an incredibly big challenge due to the Schengen agreement. With an additional passport to Sweden, such barriers are removed and almost all of Europe becomes a possibility both for working and traveling.

Unfortunately for many of the dual-citizenship holders, this can also be a source of frustration. This frustration is based on the fact that many countries do not recognize dual-citizenship and forces the holder to pick either one of them while renouncing their other passport. Like a person from Japan and America will have to pick either Japan or America as their passport due to Japan not recognizing dual citizenship. So for a person who feels closely tied to both of these countries making the right decision is not such a simple matter. As each passport holds a different value one. It often makes me sad to hear my friends in China often having to pay deposits amount to almost 10,000 dollars just to go on a vacation abroad, it is simply unfair and makes traveling and migration for people without rich backgrounds very difficult.

While we all might think sometimes, being a dual citizenship sounds as this amazing treasure and key to freedom in terms of traveling, and in terms of opportunities to working abroad. Regardless of that think the fact that many countries still do not recognize dual citizenships easily becomes a source of frustration and the making of difficult choices especially of those who do feel attached to more than just one of the countries which they hold a passport to. Whether all countries should recognize dual citizenship or not I am not really certain if it is the right solution. With the increasing amount of globalization, I think the ideal solution would be to soften the barriers and make them less restrictive so that people can travel where they want, work where they want as long as they have the skill and migrate where they want regardless of which country one holds a citizenship of. Unfortunately, this is unlikely to change anytime soon, maybe never as long as discrimination and racism is a part of our daily life.

So meanwhile, for those of you that hold citizenships from different countries, different countries which both recognize dual citizenships as a right should treasure how lucky you are and the freedom you have to move, work and live your life in so many places compared to many others. In many ways, I am jealous of dual-citizenships holders. Still after reflecting on the whole thing, it seems that it is not always as nice it sounds like and I might have been reserving my judgments too soon. When you are forced to pick one passport over the other you might never in truly know if if you made the right decision or not.

French citizenship or the anti-communitarianism

by Marin Enault

By studying immigration in the United States, I noticed how much the vision of the migrants was different compared with France’s vision. The history of both countries being completely different, it seems that it influences the conception of the immigration. It seems interesting to compare sociologically these two ideologies as well as their result.

Countries as the United States, Australia or New Zealand built themselves thanks to the colonizing immigrants. This special past is important in the idea which these countries have of immigration: Immigration is always massive, wished, checked and presented as a strength. The multicultural society of the United States is described as a wealth, responding to a logic of market.

The public policies that control the immigration’s flow according to certain criteria: countries, languages, professional qualifications… This “chosen” immigration policy entails the creation of ethnic communities, sharing the same characteristics. In the US we can speak about South American, Asian or Black communities, which are themselves divided into an infinity of national or cultural communities. It is a large-scale communitarianism: the immigrants live parallel existences while sharing the same nationality.

European countries, in particular France, have a different immigration culture. Even if the number of immigrants is important (nearly 160,000/year), France sees the communitarianism as something bad, as a failure of the integration. Partially because this country is the heir of a long republican tradition, France pursues the dream of “republican messianism”: the French nation is one and indivisible: the origin, the color and the culture of an emigrant disappear since he becomes French. So the French state refuses to see ethnic communities on its territory, simply French citizens, without any other criterion of distinction.

To describe this ideal, Ernest Renan spoke about a “national project”, a nation based on the “will to live together”. However, today this myth seems unrealistic : it seems that the French nation, in spite of its historic will, does not integrate any more her immigrants as well as the native-born French people. Although the theory of the communitarianism is always refused by the political elite, ethnic groupings nevertheless built up themselves. The migrants, due to the lack of economic integration, live in the same poor suburbs areas. The myth of a “French-style” citizenship collapsed: the secularism loses its sense when the school holidays are based on the Christian calendar while in certain high schools the majority of the students are Muslim.

France always ideologically refused the creation of subgroups within the French citizenship, however it turns out that the economic reality does not allow any more the same integration for all.

To convince itself, it is enough to look at the exam’s results of the Parisians elite’s high schools compares to the very close high schools, considered as difficult, where the students are mainly sons of immigrants. Not recognizing communitarianism doesn’t makes it disappear, quite the contrary.

References

Costa-Lascoux, Jacqueline : « L’intégration « à la française » : une philosophie à l’épreuve des réalités »

Renan, Ernest. « What is a Nation? »

Immaculate Conceptions and Japanese Citizenship

by Robert Moorehead

According to the Mainichi, on September 13, the Osaka Family Court ruled that a child conceived through sperm donation must be registered as fatherless. The Court rejected the petition of a 31-year-old transgender man and his wife, who had sought to add their son to their family registry. The Tokyo Shinjuku Ward Office had refused to record the man as the child’s father, noting that he was biologically incapable of fathering the child. Instead, the Ward Office left the father section of the family register blank. An immaculate conception!

The man had legally changed his gender in 2008, and married his partner shortly thereafter. The Court ruled that Japanese law bases parenthood on a biological connection between parents and child. Since government officials are unable to watch people conceive their children and they do not require DNA tests to add children to family registers, the standard practice has been to record both parties in a married couple as the child’s parents—even if the child was conceived through sperm or egg donation.

This case comes down to whether the government knows whether you’re capable of conceiving a child. If the government does not know that reproductive technologies have been used, then the parents are in the clear to record the child as theirs. However, if you’re a transgender parent and had legally re-registered your gender, or a woman whose fertility is in question, then your claim to parenthood may be denied.

This privileging of biological ties is inconsistently applied, as in 2003 authorities refused to register actress Aki Mukai as the mother of twins who were born through an American surrogate, and instead registered the surrogate as the children’s legal mother. Mukai’s ova and the sperm of her husband, wrestler Nobuhiko Takada, were used in the surrogacy. However, the Japanese Supreme Court ruled that Japanese law only recognizes the woman who gives birth to the child as the legal mother. Mukai and Takada were required to adopt their children, who were registered as American citizens and foreign residents of Japan.

In another example, a woman’s spouse will be automatically recorded as the father if the child is conceived during the marriage, regardless of who the biological father is. If the woman conceives the child with someone other than her spouse while she and her spouse are separated, and she subsequently divorces and re-marries, the ex-husband will be listed as the child’s biological father.

Why engage in such legal and mental gymnastics? Defenders of the current law say that it is necessary to support the sanctity of marriage. Such marriage laws also legally discriminated against children born to unmarried parents by limiting them to half the inheritance their “legitimate” siblings would receive. On September 4, the Japanese Supreme Court unanimously overturned a 1995 decision that upheld the law.

Following the logic of the Osaka Family Court’s decision, if a child is born through anonymous sperm and egg donations to infertile parents, and the government knows the parents are infertile, that child could legally be recorded as having no parents. An even more immaculate conception!

Such a child would also be stateless. For children to receive Japanese citizenship at birth, they must have at least one parent who is a citizen. Thus, if the mother of the child in the Osaka case is not a Japanese citizen, then her child will also not be a citizen, as the child’s legally non-existent father would not be able pass on citizenship to him.

A further wrinkle is that an overseas birth must be registered with Japanese authorities within 90 days for the child to receive citizenship. Given the dearth of reproductive services in Japan, many women seek services outside the country. If, upon returning to Japan, the couple’s parenthood is in question, the couple must choose whether to register the surrogate as the mother, or challenge the decision and risk missing the window in which to register the child for Japanese citizenship.

Beyond the common situation of the law not keeping up with rapid changes in reproductive technology, these cases show how the law gets twisted and turned as judges and other officials see fit, to support a status quo that does not serve the interests of children or parents.