The Supreme Court of Japan published a ruling on Thursday (24 January) upholding a law that requires transgender people to be sterilized before changing their gender on official documents.
Japan’s law in question is No. 111, which first took effect in 2003.
The law states trans people, in order to secure a gender change, must be diagnosed with gender identity disorder (GID). Two or more ‘respected’ medical professionals must prescribe the diagnosis.
According to Japan’s definition, GID describes a person whose biological sex is ‘clear’ but they have a ‘psychological identity with an alternative gender’ and plan to live as that gender.
The American Psychiatric Association removed GID from its mental health guide in 2012. They replaced it with gender dysphoria (GD). GD describes the emotional and mental distress of living as a gender that does not align with a person’s true gender.
Following a GID diagnosis, a trans person in Japan must also be over 20 years old, unmarried, not have any underage children, not ‘have gonads or permanently lack functioning gonads,’ and have a body that is ‘endowed with genitalia that closely resemble the physical form of an alternative gender’.
In 2017, a Human Rights Watch report confirmed sterilization was still happening in the country.
Where does this all stand now?
In February 2017, a transgender man challenged this law.
Takakito Usui wanted to get his gender recognize as male without undergoing sterilization. He argued the law violates the Constitution’s guarantee of people’s right to be respected as individuals.
In this week’s Supreme Court decision, however, they rejected Usui’s argument. According to reports, the court said there were ‘doubts’ about the law reflecting changing times, but maintained that it was constitutional.
Presiding justice Mamoru Miura and another justice wrote this additional opinion about the ‘doubts’.
‘Suffering related to gender, felt by people with gender identity disorder, is also the problem of society as a whole, which should encompass the diversity of sexual identity,’ the opinion read.
The four justices were unanimous in throwing out Usui’s challenge to the law.