Japan’s Supreme Court recently upheld a law passed in 2004 that requires the sterilization of citizens who identify as transgender, reports the Associated Press. The law requires that citizens who wish to change their gender on official documentation undergo forced sterilization.
Human Rights Watch reports that Law 111, officially the Act on Special Cases in Handling Gender Status for Persons with Gender Identity Disorder, also stipulates that a person must be at least 20 years old and unmarried.
The decision to uphold Law 111 came about after a challenge by Takakito Usui, a transgender man who argued that the law is unconstitutional. Usui argued that he should not be obligated to remove his female reproductive organs in order to identify as male. The decision to uphold the law and reject Usui’s appeal was unanimous among all the judges on the panel.
While the decision is a setback for transgender rights in the country, two of the case’s judges, including the presiding justice Mamoru Miura, stated that evaluations of the law should be conducted “from the viewpoint of respect for personality and individuality,” reports CNN. These judges also stated an additional opinion that society should be open to “embrace the diversity of sexual identity,” reports CNN. Usui and his lawyer derived hope from this decision. “I think the ruling could lead to a next step,” Usui said during a press conference.
The ruling sparked widespread condemnation from human rights and LGBTQ organizations. “Forcing people to undergo unwanted surgeries to obtain documentation is contrary both to Japan’s human rights obligations and its reputation as a champion of LGBT rights,” a separate Human Rights Watch report criticizes. The report continues, “The government should urgently revise Law 111 to end forced sterilization.”
The Asia Pacific campaign manager at Amnesty International, Suki Chung, also issued a statement. Chung argues that, “Forcing people to undertake medical treatment in order to obtain legal gender recognition violates their right to the highest attainable standard of health.” She went on to urge the Japanese government to end this “discriminatory and highly intrusive” policy.
Many Japanese activists have also denounced the ruling, including transgender writer Tomato Hatakeno, who said, “The ruling suggests that reproductive health is not recognized as a basic human right.”
As reports Japan Times, attitudes towards the LGBTQ community have been shifting in Japan recently, with some municipalities allowing same-sex partnerships. Conversely, there is no nationwide law banning LGBTQ discrimination, and only some municipalities have such anti-discrimination policies.
A separate article from the Japan Times states that more individuals are identifying as LGBTQ and poll results show that citizens want anti-discrimination protections in place for the LGBTQ community.
The Japanese government’s Justice Ministry figures show that over 7,800 people in Japan have had their gender officially changed. The push for LGBTQ equality is relatively new in Japan, but is expected to continue growing.