Seminar (Reproductive Issue Series) “Family Building of Same-Sex…”

2nd IGS Seminar (Reproductive Issue Series) “Family Building of Same-Sex Couples and Donor Insemination”

The 2nd IGS Seminar (Reproductive Issue Series) was held on July 27, 2016 at Ochanimizu University. At this seminar, we focused on the issues of family building of same sex couples and donor insemination. Same-sex marriage has come to be allowed legally in some countries recently, and the number of same-sex couples who have children by way of donor conception is increasing. Even in Japan, we can see LGBT couples who wish to be parents or have already had children. In this seminar, we invited two lesbian women who spoke about the kinds of barriers faced by LGBT couples and their attitudes about how LGBT couples who had children using donor conception could explain their family building to their children.

The first presentation, by LGBT activist Ms. Koyuki Higashi, was on “Lesbian Mothers in Japan.” In 2015, the Same-sex Partnership System was adopted in Shibuya Ward in Tokyo, and now other local governments have also come to adopt the system. Lately the existence of same-sex couples has become more visible in Japan. On the other hand, same-sex couples that are raising children are still largely invisible in Japan, although the actual number of same-sex couples (mainly lesbian couples) having children is increasing. It is almost impossible for same-sex couples to adopt children or have access to reproductive medicine under the guidelines of the Japan Society of Obstetrics and Gynecology (JSOG), which prohibit the implementation of reproductive medicine to same-sex couples. This is the reason it is still so difficult for same-sex couples to have children.  Some lesbian couples wish to try self-insemination with donated sperm, but it is difficult to find a donor even though self-insemination is not prohibited by law. In addition, even when a donor can be located, only the woman who delivers the baby can be his/her legal mother. It is a serious issue for children from the perspective of well-being because the children’s legal status is so unstable. When Ms. Higashi and her partner were seeking donor insemination, a counselor advised them that they should tell the truth to their child if they were able to have one. Ms. Higashi concluded that she and her partner, if they were able to have a child, would like to maintain the child’s right to know including the possibility of meeting with his/her donor.

The title of the second presentation was “Sexual Minority Parents Who Are Raising Children in Japan.” Ms. Mayu Aoyama, a lesbian mother and a sub-delegate of Nijiiro Kazoku (a group for LGBT families in Japan), introduced her experiences of donor insemination and child-rearing as part of a lesbian couple. This presentation was carried out in Q & A style; as facilitator of the seminar, I, Yukari Semba, asked questions, and Ms. Aoyama answered them. She and her partner have had a close relationship for more than 18 years. It was difficult to find a donor, but child-rearing was even more difficult than trying to get pregnant, because Ms. Aoyama’s partner didn’t get pregnant and deliver, and also because they didn’t disclose to colleagues that they were a lesbian couple. Her partner found it difficult to become involved in child-rearing because of the lack of understanding by colleagues. She also said that their child understood, at his own level of maturity, about his family in which both parents are women.

From those presentations, we learned that it was necessary for us to accept diverse families and to discuss legislation for avoiding discrimination toward children born into a single-parent family or a same-sex-parents family.

(Yukari Semba, Project RF of IGS, Ochanimizu University)

Date/Time: July 27, 2016 18:30–20:30
Seminar Venue: Room #604, Graduate School of Humanities & Science Bldg., Ochanomizu University
Koyuki Higashi (LGBT Activist), “Lesbian Mothers in Japan”
Mayu Aoki (Nijiiro Kazoku), “Child-rearing by Sexual Minority Parents in Japan”
Coordinator: Yukari Semba (IGS, Ochanomizu University)
Organizer: Institute for Gender Studies, Ochanomizu University
Number of Participants: 85