The Lower House of Japan's Parliament on Friday approved a bill drafted to allow the abdication of Emperor Akihito and reopen the debate on whether female members should remain in the imperial family after marriage.
The legislative body approved the draft after two days of deliberation with only one vote against and three abstentions, paving the way for the proposal to be passed easily in the Upper House, scheduled for June 9, Efe news reported.
Although the law will only be applicable to the 83-year-old emperor to allow him to abdicate the Chrysanthemum Throne in favour of his son Naruhito, 57, its approval could set a precedent for future abdications, Japan's top government spokesperson Yoshihide Suga said.
Japan's Imperial Household Law, enacted in 1947, only allows for posthumous succession.
The text dictates that the timing of the abdication will be decided three years after the law's promulgation and although no date has been set, the government believes the ideal moment for the abdication will be in December 2018, when the emperor turns 85 and completes three decades as head of state.
The Lower House Steering Committee also gave its nod to the inclusion in the abdication bill of a non-binding proposal that calls for the government to debate allowing women to stay in the imperial family after marriage.
Under the 1947 imperial law, female members of the royal family lose their royal status when marrying a commoner, which has since substantially reduced the number of members of the Japanese royal family due to very few male births in recent years.
The resolution urges the government to "consider various issues to secure stable imperial succession, including creating female branches" to enable the continuity of the world's oldest reigning hereditary dynasty.