japan refuses to overrule their trans sterilization law

A missed opportunity.

by Frankie Dunn
25 January 2019, 2:27pm

Did you know that in order to be legally recognised as their chosen gender, trans individuals in Japan must be sterilised first? Yes, in 2019. A list of conditions people are required to meet include having “a lack of (or disfunctional) reproductive glands, and genitalia similar in appearance to those of the opposite sex”. Hoping to overturn the outdated 2003 law, Takakito Usui, a transgender man from Okayama wishing to legally change his registered gender without undergoing surgery, appealed to Japanese courts only to have his case rejected by the Supreme Court yesterday on the grounds that the law is constitutional.

"It is unthinkable in this day and time that the law requires a sex-change operation to change gender," responded Usui's lawyer, Tomoyasu Oyama. "When the law was established 15 years ago, LGBT people had to make a bitter decision and swallow the conditions to pave a narrow way for official change of gender. With this decision, I hope lawmakers will change the law to support the wishes of the LGBT community." In support, Amnesty International’s Asia Pacific campaign manager Suki Chung called the result “a missed opportunity to address the discrimination transgender people face.”

Shocking as the clause is, it was only in 2017 that the European Court of Human Rights declared the forced sterilisation of trans individuals wishing to be legally recognised as the gender they identify with, is a violation of human rights. The decision resulted in the 22 European countries who still participated in such atrocities – including Belgium, Switzerland, Greece and Finland – to change their laws. At the time, Stonewall reported that while they welcomed the decision, they were "disappointed the court did not condemn medical examinations and mental health diagnoses" too. Then in October of 2018, they took this further, partnering with VICE on their Recognise Me campaign that called on anybody who cares about LGBTQI rights to demand improvements to the Gender Recognition Act.

While Japan’s official stance is disturbing, a new survey found that at least 1 in 11 people in Japan identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender. Encouragingly, it also showed an increased understanding, respect and desire to legally protect the nation's LGBTQI community. Something for Mio Sugita, Japanese MP and ally of Prime Minister Abe, to think about after her 2018 comments that same-sex couples “don’t produce children. In other words, they lack productivity and therefore do not contribute to the prosperity of the nation.” Perhaps if her nation’s laws didn’t make it so difficult for same-sex people to adopt or access artificial insemination, and then force sterilisation on other members of the LGBTQI community, things would look a little differently.

This article originally appeared on i-D UK.

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