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Japan urged to stop compelled sterilization of transgender people

An outdated Japan law states that people eyeing to register a gender change must have their original reproductive organs removed and have a body that “appears to have parts that resemble the genital organs” of the gender they want to register.

Photo by Andre Benz from Unsplash.com

Those wishing (or planning) to change their gender marker on official documentation in Japan must have their original reproductive organs removed. And this – according to human rights organizations – shouldn’t be the case.

In 2013, for instance, the United Nations special rapporteur on torture noted that transgender people being “required to undergo often unwanted sterilization surgeries as a prerequisite to enjoy legal recognition of their preferred gender” was a human rights violation and called on governments to prohibit the practice.

A 2004 Japan law states that people eyeing to register a gender change must have their original reproductive organs removed and have a body that “appears to have parts that resemble the genital organs” of the gender they want to register. Specifically, transgender people who want to legally change their gender must appeal to a family court under the Gender Identity Disorder Special Cases (GID) Act, which was introduced in 2004. The procedure is discriminatory, requiring applicants to be single and without children under age 20, to undergo a psychiatric evaluation to receive a diagnosis of “gender identity disorder,” and to be sterilized.

For Human Rights Watch (HRW), “this is regressive and harmful. The requirements rest on an outdated and pejorative notion that a transgender identity is a mental health condition, and compel transgender people to undergo lengthy, expensive, invasive, and irreversible medical procedures.”

A transgender man earlier legally appealed to be legally recognized as male without undergoing surgery; but in January, the country’s Supreme Court rejected him.

The court acknowledged that the practice restricts freedom and could become out of step with changing social values; but it’s hands are also tied with the existing law.

HRW released an 84-page report, “‘A Really High Hurdle’: Japan’s Abusive Transgender Legal Recognition Process,” that documents how Japan’s GID Act harms transgender people who want to be legally recognized but cannot or do not want to undergo irreversible medical procedures like sterilization.

“Japan should uphold the rights of transgender people and stop forcing them to undergo surgery to be legally recognized,” Kanae Doi, Japan director at Human Rights Watch, was quoted as saying. “The law is based on an outdated premise that treats gender identity as a so-called ‘mental illness’ and should be urgently revised.”

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