A proposed legislation that will take effect later this year will bar lesbians and single women in Japan from having a child through the process of sperm donation. Gay couples and single women have been relying on anonymous sperm donations to welcome a child for decades. However, there was no law controlling the process.
But the new law seems to prohibit such couples from becoming parents. AFP reports that the law seeks to regulate the procedure, protect the rights of children to know their biological parents and will cap recipients from a single donor. However, the law would only authorise the process for legally married couples, mostly those affected by male infertility.
The country does not recognise same-sex marriages so lesbian couples and single women would be excluded. Single women wanting to give birth and women in a relationship are clearly unhappy with the move. They feel like they are being robbed of the right to have a child.
Japan Society of Obstetrics and Gynaecology (JSOG) is the controlling agency for all institutions that offer sperm donation and insemination. The body serves as the basis for the new legislation restricting the process to married couples. JSOG’s guidelines are non-binding, but still very few doctors defy them to accommodate lesbians and single women.
Couples who have already had a child through the process of sperm donation also fear that their child might be stigmatised for being born this way. The legislation can create an environment where all children born prior to it being enacted might be looked down upon by the society.
Kozo Akino, a ruling-coalition lawmaker involved in drafting the legislation, argues that children’s rights are most easily protected by “legally married parents with joint custody”.
“Assisted reproductive technology should not be pursued at the expense of the well-being of children,” he told AFP.
Some doctors back the law saying that the treatment will become more socially accepted, despite being limited to heterosexual married couples.
“My hope is that with the law, our treatment will be seen as more legitimate and become mainstream,” said Mamoru Tanaka, an obstetrics professor at Tokyo’s Keio University Hospital.
(With inputs from agencies)