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Global health group urges Japan to reform legal recognition of trans people

Global health group urges Japan to reform legal recognition of trans people

International Trans Day of Visibility

An international health organization has urged the government of Japan to reform its legal recognition procedure for trans people.

The call comes from the World Professional Association for Transgender Health (WPATH), which comprises of over 2,000 healthcare professionals from around the world.

Currently, trans people in Japan must be diagnosed with ‘gender identity disorder’ before they can be officially recognized as their gender identity. They are also required to undergo sterilization.

WPATH called on Japan’s health ministry to make changes to the law, particularly to eliminate the requirement for sterilization.

Earlier this year, a Japanese court dismissed a lawsuit arguing that it was unconstitutional to require trans people to undergo sterilization.

International calls for change 

In the letter, WPATH President Dr. Vin Tangpricha said that ending mandatory sterilization of trans people should be an urgent priority, Human Rights Watch reports.

‘Some transgender people want to undergo hormonal treatment, surgical procedures, or other medical interventions as part of their transition. Others do not,’ the letter says.

It goes on to add that ‘mandatory use of medical services as part of the legal recognition process is not recommended on the basis of science or human rights’.

WPATH added that: ‘The 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo will be an important moment for the government of Japan to demonstrate to the world that it respects the rights of all people.’

WPATH is not the only international organization to call on Japan to reform its legal requirements.

Human Rights Watch has been particularly vocal in calling for change.


In February 2018, 43-year-old trans man Takakito Usui filed a lawsuit which claimed that the requirement of sterilization for legal recognition of gender change was unconstitutional.

The court ultimately ruled against Usui in January this year.

Last month, the United Nations World Health Organization (WHO) made history by removing gender dysphoria from its list of ‘mental disorders’.

Ongoing fight for LGBTI equality 

Japan is generally tolerant of LGBTI rights, with a number of moves to improve LGBTI rights in recent years.

This includes the partnership oath system and anti-LGBTI discrimination legislation which will be introduced in Tokyo ahead of the 2020 Olympics.

However, the LGBTI community still lacks full equality. Many LGBTI people continue to face cultural and legislative hurdles in Japan.

In February, thirteen same-sex couples in four different cities filed lawsuits against the government for failing to recognize same-sex marriage.

A recent survey found that over 80% of job seekers in Japan were not open about their sexuality to potential employers. The survey also found that 70.8% of LGBTI jobseekers were concerned about discrimination and harassment at the workplace.

See also

Japan opposition parties rally in bid to pass marriage equality

Tokyo can wait: Osaka, Kyoto and Hiroshima cradle the soul of Japan 

Legally recognized same-sex relationships are spreading across Japan