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Ova collection in Japan – making visible women's experience in male spaces

journal contribution
posted on 2023-06-08, 23:06 authored by Margaret Sleeboom-FaulknerMargaret Sleeboom-Faulkner, Masae Kato
The role of women is essential in embryo creation and donation, as they undergo in vitro fertilisation (IVF) treatment for ova collection. Yet, it has often been pointed out that in the process of embryo donation women's role is largely neglected, as if embryos come from nowhere. The procedure of embryo donation in Japan is a case in point. During field research in Japan, we found that women were of the view that the procedures of embryo donation are inhuman, cold and harsh, while specialists said that no value is attached to embryos in Japan and that women have no scruples about donating them. This article explores the cause of the gap in the perception of experiences of ova collection between women and IVF specialists. Our primary source of data was interview narratives with women undergoing IVF, IVF specialists, nurses, counsellors and policy makers. Field research was conducted in 2006–2008. We analysed the process and the ways in which women's experiences of ova collection become invisible in Japanese socio-cultural contexts, including marriage, households and motherhood values in Japan. Our analysis critically draws on Marxist feminist theories, which enabled us to discuss the link among the production of embryos and ova, reproduction, ownership and gender. This theoretical framework also enabled us to view the case of Japan, paying particular attention to historical perspectives and specific cultural forms.


Publication status

  • Published


Gender, Place and Culture




Taylor & Francis





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Department affiliated with

  • Anthropology Publications

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Peer reviewed?

  • Yes

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