Human Rights Watch slams Japan’s ‘regressive’ sterilisation of trans people

Japan Japanese outing LGBT campaigners attend a Pride event in Tokyo, Japan where the first refugee has been accepted on ground of LGBT+ persecution

A Human Rights Watch report has criticised the procedure for legally changing gender in Japan, which includes sterilisation, describing it as “regressive and harmful.”

The 84-page publication, released on Tuesday (March 19), is based on interviews with 48 transgender people living in Japan, as well as testimonies from lawyers, health providers, and academics from across the country.

“The procedure in Japan for changing an individual’s legal gender is regressive and harmful,” a summary of the report reads.

“It rests on an outdated and pejorative notion that a transgender identity is a mental health condition, and requires transgender people who want legal recognition to undergo lengthy, expensive, invasive, and irreversible medical procedures.”

Human Rights Watch heavily criticises Japan for laws on legally changing gender

The report, titled ‘A Really High Hurdle’: Japan’s Abusive Transgender Legal Recognition Process, continues: “The relevant legislation—known as the ‘Gender Identity Disorder Special Cases Act’—is contrary to international human rights law and international medical best practices.”

The Human Right Watch report comes after the Supreme Court of Japan upheld its current legislation in January, which forces transgender people to get sterilised before they can legally change their gender.

“The procedure in Japan for changing an individual’s legal gender is regressive and harmful.”

—Human Rights Watch

The human rights watchdog is calling on the Japanese government to reform its laws.

“Japan should uphold the rights of transgender people and stop forcing them to undergo surgery to be legally recognized,” said Kanae Doi, Japan director at Human Rights Watch.

“The law is based on an outdated premise that treats gender identity as a so-called ‘mental illness’ and should be urgently revised.”

Human rights watchdog calls for reform of Japan’s laws on legally changing gender

In January, Japan’s panel of four justices ruled unanimously to reject an appeal filed by Takakito Usui, a trans man who wants to change the gender on his official documents, Australian outlet SBS News reported.

Usui was trying to overturn Law 111, which requires any person seeking to change their legal gender to have “no reproductive glands or reproductive glands that have permanently lost function.”

Japan pride attendees

Participants of the Tokyo Rainbow Pride 2015 pose for photographers. (TORU YAMANAKA/AFP/Getty)

Trans people also have to possess “a body which appears to have parts that resemble the genital organs of those of the opposite gender,” according to the 2003 law, which was ruled constitutional by the Supreme Court judges.

Usui, whose legal campaign is now over, responded to the ruling by saying: “The essential thing should not be whether you have had an operation or not, but how you want to live as an individual.”