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Association takes aim at changing religious custom

Date Posted: 2004-04-08

A Naha group promoting religious equality is turning to Naha’s mayor for help. The Naha City Men’s and Women’ Association Planning Committee wants to alter an old religious custom they say is discriminating against women. In its quest for equality, the association is enlisting the help of Naha City Mayor Takeshi Onaga.

According to current custom, only the eldest son can have the family altar and the small tablet in it listing the direct ancestors. The tablet is passed through generations to male heirs, and if the family had no male heir, they often adopted one in order to carry on the family name.

“That is not fair to women,” Committee Chairwoman Miyoko Miyara says. “All rules should change with times and although there are other unfair customs and traditions, we feel that this one should be changed first,” Miyara stated.

The mayor promised to work hard for a change. “The society must guarantee that both women and men are treated equally. I will do my best to effect this change,” Onaga said.

Onaga says he will discuss the matter with members of Okinawa Prefecture Men’s and Women’s Association, and that he hopes to resolve the matter before the end of the year.

Other gender problems the union wants to change include the custom in Japanese schools that lists male students first in any publication or official document. The custom is the same throughout Japan, and the association says that changing that is the next on their agenda once the question of the religious inheritance custom is resolved.

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