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Japan could have its first female emperor in 200 years, if proposals to overturn a 1947 ruling banning women from becoming heir to the throne are given the green light.

This would also mean female members of the royal family could marry commoners and retain their title. Only last week, Japanese princess Sayako relinquished her royal status in order to marry a town planner. The same strictures do not apply to princes.

As the Guardian reports, the public support the proposals, which have been put forward because of doubts that a male successor will be born. As it stands, this would break the chain of succession for the first time since 660BC.

This move has been initiated by the Japanese government, without consulting the royal family, who are banned from interferring in the country’s political affairs.