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Hurdles still exist despite progress in confidential birth registration

  • February 11, 2022
  • , The Asahi Shimbun , 5:20 p.m.
  • English Press

While a baby born with the mother concealing her identity to authorities will now likely have a family register set up, other obstacles in registering a confidential birth in Japan remain to be addressed.


Although experts are calling for legal revisions so that confidential births can be allowed without administrative exceptions, government officials continue to be reluctant to tackle the issue.


A provision of the Family Register Law gives a mayor the authority to set up a family register for a baby in cases where the identity of the mother is unknown.


Kumamoto city officials indicated they would cooperate with Jikei Hospital officials in Kumamoto to establish such a register for a baby born there in December to a teenage girl.


The register will be created without hospital officials officially registering the baby’s birth with local authorities.


However, the hospital has reported receiving inquiries from other women who want to give birth there without disclosing their identity to government officials. But it is unclear if the exception applied to the current case can continue to be used in the future.


Another problem to be addressed is the stipulation that children born through a confidential birth process can eventually learn the identity of their mother if they so choose after reaching a certain age.


But no rules have been established about preserving the records of children born with the mother concealing her identity to authorities. Private medical institutions could someday decide to close their doors and the records kept there may be lost forever.


Another issue is providing a suitable environment for raising the infant. Normally, the local child consultation center tries to establish the identity of the baby’s mother before deciding where to place the child.


But because the latest birth was given with the mother requesting anonymity, the center will have to consult with hospital officials about what course of action to take.


Fumio Tokotani, a professor of family law at Nara University, said there was a need for legal revisions to give women the option of having a confidential birth.


He suggested the Family Register Law be amended to include provisions for confidential births and that the Civil Law should also be revised to allow for adoption of such babies.


(This article was written by Rina Horikoshi and Kana Yamada.)

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