Washington International Law Journal


Due to Japan’s decreasing population numbers and low birth rate, the country’s legal forces and social norms put tremendous pressure on women to have children. To meet these expectations, Japanese women frequently turn to new forms of medical assistance called Assisted Reproductive Technology (“ART”) to increase their ability to become mothers. ART includes such procedures as artificial insemination, in vitro fertilization, and surrogacy. Although several of these methods are accepted by Japanese law and society, other forms of ART, including certain forms of artificial insemination and surrogacy, are strongly disapproved. Japan’s current legal framework prevents women from accessing the full range of ART methods by restricting access to procedures that fail to conform to traditional standards on reproduction. Legal recognition of motherhood is also restricted to births performed in a narrow set of circumstances. Whereas Japanese law and social norms strictly limit a woman’s ability to utilize ART, laws provide men with greater access to ART procedures and broader recognition of fatherhood. This unequal treatment in the availability of ART on the basis of gender discriminates against Japanese women, violating both the Japanese Constitution and the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (“CEDAW”). To correct this problem and protect Japanese women, the Japanese government must enact new legislation that recognizes modern concepts of parenthood and eliminates the discriminatory effect of its current laws.

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