Japan transgender law still requires sterilization to transition

Wed. October 13, 2021 7:01 PM by Gerald Farinas

maneki neko

photo credit // gopride.com

Human Rights Watch, World Health Organization, United Nations call for Japan to change outdated law

A Japanese transgender man is arguing before court that he should be able to transition from female to male without having to go through sterilization surgery, as required by law.

According to U.S. advocacy group Human Rights Watch (HRW), 46-year old Gen Suzuki must contend with a law called the Gender Identity Disorder Special Cases Act which requires persons transitioning to be surgically sterilized.

Furthermore, transitioning persons “must be single and without children younger than 20,” said Kanae Doi and Kyle Knight of HRW.

Japan pledged in 2017 that it would change the law in accordance with a United Nations Human Rights Council recommendation.

“In 2019, Japan's Supreme Court upheld a lower court ruling that the law did not violate Japan's constitution,” HRW explained. “However, two of the justices recognized the need for reform."

The justices wrote in their opinion, “The suffering that [transgender people] face in terms of gender is also of concern to society that is supposed to embrace diversity in gender identity."

HRW noted that in 2019, the law affected a transgender woman who was not allowed to legally change her gender only over the fact that she had an eight-year old child.

The World Health Organization (WHO) notes that even the name of the law is from a different era. Since 2019, WHO no longer considers gender identity disorder as a disease.

Japan is currently debating the passage of the Equality Act—which would extend LGBTQ civil rights in everyday life. It was proposed ahead of the Tokyo Olympics in 2021.