TOKYO (AFP) — Japan's Supreme Court ruled Wednesday it was unconstitutional to deny nationality to children born out of wedlock to foreign mothers, saying it was discriminatory to consider the parents' marital status.
The ruling, which ended years of court battles, could lead to citizenship for thousands of illegitimate children in Japan, which is home to many foreign entertainers from the Philippines and elsewhere.
"If we look at the significance of nationality in guaranteeing basic human rights, we cannot afford to ignore discrimination against children," presiding judge Niro Shimada said, overturning a lower court ruling.
Ten children of Filipina mothers had filed suit seeking Japanese nationality because Japanese men -- who were married to other women -- had acknowledged they were their fathers.
But the children, even though they were born in Japan and only speak Japanese, were not granted nationality because the fathers acknowledged them only after they were born.
Previously under Japanese law, the father had to confirm the child as his before an out-of-wedlock birth.
According to official statistics, approximately 2,800 children born out of wedlock from foreign mothers reside in Japan, among whom more than 2,000 have Japanese fathers.
Japan, which largely regards itself as ethnically homogeneous, has strict controls on immigration.
The country has rejected the idea of large-scale immigration even though it has one of the world's lowest birthrates.
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