Japan Rules Mandatory Sterilization for Trans People ‘Unconstitutional

The top court of Japan has ruled a mandatory sterilization law for transgender people ‘unconstitutional’ after 19 years.

Law Change Imminent

Japan’s Supreme Court has officially ended a 2004 legal clause requiring transgender people to undergo sterilization in order to legally change their gender from the one that matches their biological sex. 

The law, which required transgender people in Japan to give up their reproductive rights before they could officially transition, has been deemed “unconstitutional.”

The ruling came after a 50-year-old transgender woman (who has not been named) individually filed a petition to contest the law. 

Over the years, a number of international organizations have criticized the requirement, including the UN, the European Court of Human Rights, and the World Professional Association for Transgender Health. It has been called an “infringement” on human rights. 

This news signals a recent turnaround in attitude in Japan, as the mandatory sterilization law was taken to court back in 2019, in a bid to remove it, but was then ruled constitutional. 

Not the End of It

Unfortunately, this is not the only legal clause the Japanese government has established concerning transgender citizens.

Another separate clause requires that trans people who want to change their gender legally must also change their genitals to match their preferred gender. 

While the first clause was deemed unconstitutional, the second clause has been passed down to a lower court to deliberate on.

Both human rights groups and the plaintiff have expressed dismay at this second outcome. 

The plaintiff admitted that the decision to overturn the law based on her appeal was “very unexpected” and she was “very surprised.”

In a statement issued by her lawyers, she admitted that the postponement of the second clause had also left her “disappointed.” 

Denied Two Times Before

She had previously approached both the family and the High Court of Japan to overturn the clause but was denied by both before approaching the Supreme Court.

Her arguments for deferring sterilization were based on years of hormone replacement therapy that had already significantly reduced her reproductive capacity.

She felt that the risk and pain associated with sterilization were unfair in her case. 

There are currently six requirements that a Japanese person must meet before they can legally change their gender: they must be over 18 years old, not be married, have no underage children, have surgery to “correct” their genitals, have no functioning reproductive glands, and have a gender dysphoria diagnosis.

Human Rights Watch Speak Out

Human Rights Watch (HRW), another rights group that previously called the laws “abusive and outdated,” has since spoken out about the verdict and celebrated the decision, calling it an “important victory for transgender rights in Japan”.

HRW Japan Director Kanae Doi told the BBC that “this judgment upholds the rights to health, privacy and bodily autonomy of trans people in Japan.

It follows years of advocacy and litigation to remove this abusive… requirement.”

HRW has also urged the Japanese government to follow up on the ruling, with Kanae saying “The government is under the obligation to make any laws constitutional so the government now needs to act quickly to remove the clause. It’s late, but never too late.”

Some Are Against It

However, not all groups in and outside of socially conservative Japan support the law change.

Some groups have argued against it on grounds of legal confusion, and the potential danger of making Japanese women feel unsafe. 

At the moment Japan is one of 18 countries that has mandated sterilization laws, despite condemnation from the World Health Organization (WHO). 

The post Japan Rules Mandatory Sterilization for Trans People ‘Unconstitutional’ first appeared on Edge Media.

Featured Image Credit: Shutterstock / Jose Calsina.

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