Japanese Feminists' Struggle over Surrogacy Issues with Distortions of "Women's Autonomy"

Wednesday, 18 July 2018: 10:45
Oral Presentation
Yoshie YANAGIHARA, Tokyo Denki University, Japan
Recently, surrogacy practice has more clearly revealed as a new form of violence that makes use of gender and bodily attribution of woman. Although, at the beginning, few people noticed its discriminative aspects, the emergence of single male and gay couple’s surrogacy cases bring this to light.

This research focuses on the discourse of Japanese women’s movements pro- and anti- surrogacy practices. I analyzed cultural representation about surrogacy using a sorting system in the Oya-Soichi Library, which specializes in Japanese magazines. I searched with the Japanese keywords “dairisyussan” (surrogacy), “dairibo” (surrogate mother), “jikoketteiken” (autonomy or the right to personal autonomy in Japanese), and its related words from the first entry of the database in 1981 through to 2017. Additionally, I referred to books and treatises written by the main characters who played important roles in the surrogacy discussion.

The result shows the struggles of Japanese feminists who opposed surrogacy, and Japanese conundrum to legislate regulation of surrogacy. While they advocated surrogacy as a gender discriminative issue, the supporters of surrogacy also used feminism’s framework. The supporters used “women’s reproductive and sexual autonomy” to appeal “rights to have children.” They applied this term because Japanese meaning of “women’s autonomy” was modified as “liberty to subvert morality.” This distortion derived from a discussion lead by Japanese sociologists to promote prostitution of high school girls. Due to this, “women’s autonomy” had a negative connotation in Japanese society. On the other hand, when the supporters widen the market of cross-border surrogacy for gay people, feminists and some sexual minority people were fiercely against it.

Currently, even though legislation against surrogacy seems to be stagnated, Japanese feminists and some sexual minority groups play important roles to prevent legalization of surrogacy with regard to gender equality and women’s human rights.