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Japan Upholds Law Demanding Sterilization for Trans People

Takakito Usui

An opinion by the Supreme Court’s presiding judge infers things may change soon.

Japan's Supreme Court unanimously upheld a 2003 law requiring all transgender people to be sterilized prior to transitioning, Japan Today reports.

The two year trial was brought by Takakito Usui as he sought to transition. Law 111 requires anyone transitioning and wanting to have their official documents changed to reflect their gender, must follow specific rules. Of those guidelines, they must have no children under 20, be single, and undergo a psychiatric evaluation. They also cannot have reproductive glands or their reproductive glands must "have permanently lost function."

The law has been the subject of both national and international debate in Japan with supporters saying that it would prevent "problems" and "confusion" not only in society at large but also between parents and their children. Critics have labeled the forced or coerced sterilization invasive and discriminatory.

The Supreme Court's support of Law 11 came with caveats. Judges also released opinions that the mandate was invasive and should be reviewed regularly. While ruling it constitutional, presiding judge Mamoru Miura said that "doubts are undeniably emerging" surrounding the law, inferring that change was imminent.

Suki Chung, of Amnesty International still called the ruling "a blow for the recognition of transgender people in Japan," in a statement to media, News Skill reports. "It is a missed opportunity to address the discrimination transgender people face."

There is hope that this ruling, and the added debate it brought about, will help to spur change.

"It is unthinkable in this day and time that the law requires a sex-change operation to change gender," Usui's lawyer Tomoyasu Oyama said. "When the law was established 15 years ago, LGBT people had to make a bitter decision and swallow the conditions to pave a narrow way for official change of gender. With this decision, I hope lawmakers will change the law to support the wishes of the LGBT community."

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