The government is considering the introduction of online procedures to register marriages and divorces, Justice Minister Yoko Kamikawa said Friday.

“We’re considering scrapping (the requirement for) the use of seals to register marriages and divorces,” Kamikawa told a news conference. “We’re carrying out studies to make a variety of administrative procedures (available) online.”

The requirement can be scrapped since official seals registered with local authorities have not been needed for such documents, ministry officials said.

Individuals generally use two types of hanko personal seals, with one registered with local authorities for use in documents such as land registration and the other unregistered.

The use of hanko seals has been criticized as outdated and slammed for necessitating face-to-face interaction during the COVID-19 pandemic. Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga has instructed government officials to draw up plans to do away with the tradition for administrative documents.

At present, hanko use is required for 44 types of administrative procedures under the Justice Ministry’s jurisdiction, according to Kamikawa. Of them, the ministry is looking at abolishing its use for 35 types, including for registering marriages.

Municipalities have been allowed since April 2004 to accept online applications for marriage, divorce and other documents related to the family register system, but none has so far done so, the officials said.

Digital signatures and electronic certificates would be used for identification if these procedures go online, they said.

“We are promoting digitalization to improve the convenience of people and overall efficiency as a major pillar of the Suga government,” Kamikawa said.


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