Japan’s top court rules on a law requiring the removal of reproductive organs for official gender reassignment surgery

TOKYO (AP) — Japan’s Supreme Court will decide Wednesday whether a law forcing transgender people to remove their reproductive organs to officially change their gender is constitutional.

Currently, transgender people who want to have their biologically assigned gender changed on family records and other official documents must be diagnosed with gender identity disorder and undergo surgery to remove their gonads.

International rights and medical groups have criticized the 2003 law as inhumane and outdated.

On Wednesday, the Supreme Court’s 15-judge Grand Bench will decide whether the much-criticized surgical requirement is constitutional. The case was brought by a plaintiff whose request to change the gender of her family register – from her biological male to a female – was rejected by the lower courts.

The plaintiff, who resides only in western Japan, originally filed the petition in 2000, arguing that the need for surgery imposed a tremendous economic and physical burden and violated equal rights protections enshrined in the Constitution.

Human rights groups and the LGBTQ+ community in Japan are hoping for a change in the law after a local family court ruled in a unprecedented ruling earlier this monthaccepted a transgender man’s request for sex reassignment surgery without the mandatory surgery, saying the rule was unconstitutional.

The special law, which came into force in 2004, states that people who want to have sex reassignment surgery must have their original reproductive organs removed, including testicles or ovaries, and must have a body that “appears to have parts similar to the genital organs of the child.” resemble the new gender”. which gender you would like to register.

More than 10,000 Japanese have since had their gender officially changed, according to court documents from the Oct. 11 ruling that accepted General Suzuki’s request for a sex change without the required surgery.

In more than 40 of about 50 European and Central Asian countries that have laws allowing people to change their gender on official documents, surgery to remove reproductive organs is not required, the Shizuoka decision said. The practice of changing one’s gender in this way has become mainstream in many places around the world, it said.

Japan has a growing awareness of sexual diversity, but it is changing slowly and the country remains the only member of the Group of Seven that does not allow same-sex marriage or legal protections, including an effective anti-discrimination law. In a country where pressure to conform is high and productivity is emphasized by the conservative government, many LGBTQ+ people hide their sexuality for fear of prejudice in the workplace, school or community.

In order to reduce the hurdles when renting apartments and other areas, hundreds of municipalities now issue partnership certificates for same-sex couples, although these are not legally binding.

In 2019, the Supreme Court found the current law unconstitutional in another case filed by a transgender man who sought a change of gender registration without the required removal of sexual organs and sterilization surgery.

In this ruling, the top court said the law was constitutional as it was intended to reduce confusion in families and society. However, it acknowledged that it restricted freedom and could conflict with changing societal values ​​and should be reviewed later.

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