The highest court in Japan has declared that a law mandating individuals to undergo sterilization surgery in order to legally change their gender is against the country’s constitution.
Multiple global organizations, such as the European Court of Human Rights, the World Professional Association for Transgender Health, and the UN, have stated that the stipulation is discriminatory and violates basic human rights.
Although the ruling was praised by advocacy organizations, the judges’ choice to refer a specific clause to a lower court for further consideration was met with disappointment. This particular clause states that individuals seeking to change their gender must have genital organs that resemble those of the opposite gender.
The plaintiff, who is a transgender woman under the age of 50, expressed her shock and surprise at the unexpected decision. Her lawyers read a statement on her behalf, in which she also expressed disappointment that a decision regarding the other clause had been delayed.
In Japan, there were concerns among conservative politicians and women’s organizations that a decision questioning the current law would create chaos and diminish women’s rights. In 2019, the supreme court rejected a similar effort to eliminate the sterilization requirement.
Human Rights Watch stated that the recent ruling requires the government to take action. Kanae Doi, director for Japan, noted that the government has a responsibility to ensure all laws comply with the constitution and must promptly remove the clause. Though delayed, it is not too late for them to do so.
According to Japanese legislation, individuals seeking to alter their gender must provide a diagnosis of gender dysphoria and fulfill five criteria. These include being at least 18 years of age, unmarried, not having children under the age of 18, having physical genital characteristics that match the opposite gender, and lacking reproductive organs or having ones that are permanently non-functional.
According to media reports, the plaintiff’s attorneys argued that the final two conditions infringed upon their client’s constitutional guarantee of seeking happiness and living free from discrimination. They also claimed that these requirements would cause significant physical suffering and financial strain for transgender individuals.
Although several countries have removed their laws that mandate surgery for legal gender change, transgender rights are still a contentious issue in Japan.
During a time when there is increased attention on the concerns faced by the LGBTQ+ community in Japan, a decision has been made. Activists have been working harder to push for an anti-discrimination law, particularly after a former assistant to the prime minister, Fumio Kishida, made comments in February expressing a reluctance to live near LGBTQ+ individuals and suggesting that allowing same-sex marriage could lead citizens to leave Japan.