Japan likely to change law to allow female heirs to the throne

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Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Japanese media reported that Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi suggested yesterday that the government would submit a draft to the Diet to rewrite the Imperial Household Act within the next year. This is in response to a board of experts who have been investigating the succession issue.

The experts' Board on the Imperial Household Act, personally appointed by the Prime Minister, reached an agreement on the issue that an Empress should be accepted. Implementation of their recommendations would mean that succession to the highest position in Japanese society would occur without a gender bias.

At the present time, the Japanese imperial household has no male member under the age of 20; present law only allows male descendants to ascend to the Chrysanthemum Throne. The proposed solution would put Princess Aiko, the sole child of Crown Prince Naruhito and Crown Princess Masako in place as the most likely to inherit the position of monarch, following behind would be Princess Sayako who will leave the Imperial Household due to her planned marriage with a commoner.

Present law in Japan defines the succession as favouring male children; the last time the country had an Empress was in 1771, when Empress Go-Sakuramachi abdicated to her nephew.

Despite the fact that there is precedent for an Empress, some scholars have suggested family members who previously broke ties with the recognised royal family following the end of World War II should be considered for the succession, opening up the field of candidates even more. The group of scholars proposing this solution have stressed that their solution is aimed at maintaining the tradition of a male heir.

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