Japan Supreme Court Upholds Transgender Sterilization Requirement

Credit: Kyoto News

Credit: Kyoto News

Haley Hartner, Head News Editor

On January 25th, Japan’s Supreme Court upheld it’s 2004 decision to require sterilization by citizens who request a gender change before their gender can be changed on official documents.

An appeal made by Takakito Usui, a transgender man who claims the “sterilization” law is unconstitutional and a violation of human rights, was rejected in a unanimous decision by the four-judge panel.  

This law, otherwise referred to as Article 3 of the Law concerning Special Provisions for Handling People with Gender Identity Disorder, states that any transgender individual who wishes to legally change their gender is required to undergo genital surgery and sterilization.  This leaves transgender individuals in Japan forced to sacrifice one liberty for another; to give up their right to reproduce or jeopardize their access to insurance, health care, and even housing.  

The court claimed that while the law does restrict freedom, it is constitutional on the grounds that its intention is to “reduce confusion in families and society.”

This decision comes after Usui unsuccessfully asked the lower courts to grant him legal status as a male, despite not having his female reproductive parts removed.

This case is not the first time Japan has been recognized for its marginalization of LGBTQ citizens.  Gay Japan News has released copious reports dating back to 2005 about the mistreatment of members of the LGBT community in “traditional” Japan.

In a 2013 shadow report by Gay Japan News, it was revealed that with an anti-discrimination law that fails to include “sexual orientation and gender identity” as one of the basis’ in which discrimination is unlawful, citizens that identify as LGBT are subject to unequal treatment under multiple laws and policies, which inevitably allows for national human rights violations.

For example, those who intend to change their gender must not be married at the time of the procedure, nor are they allowed to have children under the age of 19.  Those who do undergo gender reassignment surgery are not permitted to remain married to the person they were married to before the surgery, especially since same-sex marriage is not recognized in Japan.

These individuals face discrimination in the workplace, are “denied social benefits and the right to a family,” are denied “right to physical and mental health,” and are unprotected from hate speech, all while heterophilia is being normalized in grade schools through a moral education curriculum.

Without all-inclusive anti-discrimination legislation, Japanese LGBT members will continue to be treated differently and thus unequally.  

Despite the court’s decision on behalf of Takakito Usui however, society in Japan is believed to be shifting towards a more modern view on its LGBTQ citizens and the rights they are entitled to.

Current Justice Mamoru Miura stated that while the ruling may be in accordance with their constitution, “doubts are undeniably emerging” about the morality of the law.