Voice from Japan: Interview with Kazane Kajiya
Women on Web received many requests from women or pregnant person who lives in Japan. In order to understand more about local situation, Women on Web had an interview with Kazane. Born and raised in Japan, Kazane Kajiya wants to make the country a safe place for women to make their choices by initiating the petitions.
Women on Web received many requests from women or pregnant person who lives in Japan. In order to understand more about local situation, Women on Web had an interview with Kazane on December 15th, 2021.
Born and raised in Japan, Kazane Kajiya wants to make the country a safe place for women to make their choices. At an early age, she already started questioning the social norms that put women as second class citizens. Besides being an interpreter, she is an activist who initiated a petition in Japan to remove the third-party consent from its abortion law. As a member of Action for Safe Abortion Japan (ASAJ), she released another petition in Japanese and English, urging the government to provide abortion pills at a reasonable price without hospitalization, as mentioned by the World Health Organization.
*by Amalia Puri Handayani
Could you please tell us about yourself and what has made you an activist?
When I was growing up, I saw how men behave towards women in family: my father was very controlling and abusive. I thought it was normal for every family. I really don't understand why women are supposed to change their names and follow their partner all the way to their hometown, to serve him or serve their family. This makes women isolated—both emotionally and physically. And I don't think it's fair at all. This was my first question as a 4-year-old girl. Then, when I got older, my school told me that my body started preparing for a man or to be a mother, whether or not I like it. They told me that I was going to marry a man, have kids and raise them. And I always knew I wasn’t going to choose to be mothers because we don't have to be. So that's why I started questioning the value of this society.
As a woman living in Japan, the situation and regulations are against me. I tried to do everything to secure women's choice, so that I and my friends, and somebody I have never met can choose who they want to be in this country without being oppressed. However, if you're a woman in Japan, you need spousal permission for many things, such as abortion, sterilization, and sometimes even epidural usage for labor. And when you wish to get sterilized as a childfree woman, your doctor would tell you to get married first, have a few kids for the country and then get permission from your husband for the procedure.
How is the access to safe abortion in Japan?
It is very difficult to be honest because a lot of doctors still perform dilation and curettage method which can harm women’s health. Some doctors can do suction method which is safer, but you need to pay extra money. Abortion services in Japan are super expensive, and, the law requires married women to get the spousal authorization from their husband for abortion. In reality, you could be asked to get permission from your boyfriend or ex-boyfriend or sexual predator in some cases. In Japan, men's consent is more important than women's choice for abortion; and it is called the “Maternal Body Protection Law”. Die to this obsolete law, Japanese doctors are afraid of getting sued by the male party for performing abortion.
There was a university student who got pregnant. Her boyfriend abandoned her when she found out that she was pregnant. She went to a doctor immediately. However, the doctor told her that she needed to have permission from her ex-boyfriend who already left her. So, she was trying to reach out to him but he blocked her contact, he was like, “I don't want to pay for the medical expense, it's too expensive” and then he left. The doctor kept telling her that she needed to get his permission. She was forced to give birth in a public restroom because she was denied to abortion service so many times. Male signature on the abortion consent form is more important than women's rights in Japan.
Some women order abortion pills from abroad or put some random name as their "spouse's" signature on the consent form to get abortion while in fear. Nobody should feel fearful for getting abortion but sadly that's the country that has made them feel and suffer like this!
Then, you initiated the petition. Would you like to tell us about it?
I am a member of Action for Safe Abortion Japan (ASAJ) and with their cooperation, I launched my first petition months ago to demand the abortion. I received many comments from Japanese people that they didn't know the country was this bad. I just want to keep telling them the reality of Japan, the fact that your actions and your rights need to be authorized by men. If you are a woman in Japan, this is a threat. Your life can be ruined by law, or by men, so you need to think about it. And if you don't think it's wrong or unfair, I want you to speak out.
Almost 50,000 people have signed up for my petition so far, and there are a lot of people from all over the world who did translations work for me: Korean, French, Spanish, and a lot of different languages. Thanks to them, I was able to deliver the reality of Japan to as many people living in other countries as possible. I was so moved that people who have never been to Japan or have never met me still took their time to sign my petition. I think that's very great, and I can't thank them enough. I want to shock the world by delivering the abhorrent facts of abuse and mistreatment against women by Japan and if the world supports me, we can change this country.
How about the second petition?
is only available in Japanese and English at this moment. I made the petition with other 3 activists as abortion pills are going to be approved and legalized in Japan very soon, which is good. However, some authorities and doctors are trying to force women to get hospitalized for swallowing the spill, which is obviously not necessary. They have been trying to exploit women by making the pills super expensive; as expensive as surgery, like 1,000 USD.
We showed the evidence that these pills are not that expensive in other countries. There is no reason women need to pay as much as surgery to get abortion pills. We demand women's right to legal access to safe abortion pills at reasonable price without anyone's consent. We are trying to stop them from forcing women to get hospitalized or pay as much as surgery. And we also demand the government to remove the spousal consent requirement. It’s time to stop asking women to get the third party’s permission for their own bodies. People can get abortion pills and take them at home, why do we need to get hospitalized? This is a vicious strategy to prevent women from having abortion. Some [women] want to keep it as a secret, right? But if they are forced to get hospitalized, they need to tell their family about their absence. It is about privacy as well, not only financial issues.
How was the response from stakeholders?
I had several meetings like interviews with a lot of media, journalists, and published articles about spousal consent. I also had a meeting at the Diet to talk about women's right not to have babies, or women's right to have abortion without anyone's approval at a reasonable cost without being exploited.
One time, we went to the Diet, my fellow activists did a presentation about how abortion pills are supposed to be priced in Japan compared to other countries, how women need access to abortion without anyone's approval, and things like that. I also talked about my experience as an activist, receiving messages from women experiencing difficulties.
It’s really kind of you for listening to their stories.
We have technology to connect each other and then if we have some experiences - for example, sexual harassment or mistreatment at medical facilities - we could share through social media. So, there are a lot of women gathering and working together and speaking out more, so I think it's a good thing.
After I launched the petitions, I kept tweeting about my experience and my rights and how I want to live, not as a potential mother but as a childfree human. On the petitions, some left comments and shared their experiences about being impregnated by their abusive partner, not being able to reach abortion and ended up being a single mother. There are some women who contacted me for information about getting abortion pills from abroad, like from Women on Web. I always tell them that it's safe and reliable to make them feel safe. Being able to get abortion pills in reasonable ways can also support their bodily autonomy. It enables them to access abortion without anyone's consent, so I think it's very important when it comes to empowering women.
It seems that technology has a big role for your advocacy.
Yeah. I just noticed that it is actually much easier when it comes to collecting signatures, especially because of the coronavirus. If you just go to the park and collect the petition [signatures] like this, it is going to be too much for us, but if it's online it is easier for you to collect like 10,000, 50,000 in a second since everyone can access it from all over the world. Because everyone can access it from all over the world. I think another benefit of online communication when it comes to consultation or provision of information is that they can keep anonymity when they talk to me. So, they feel safer.
Do you have any messages that you want to say for the public as a closing statement?
I just want to make my country and the world a safe place where women can choose abortion safely or choose not to have children at all. This should be a human right, not just medical luxury for the rich.
I just feel personally that if the country, like my country, doesn't protect you, or tries to deprive you of your right, you have to help each other. I just did so by sharing beneficial information and talking about our rights.