On Wednesday, the Supreme Court of Japan made history by deciding that Japan’s rule mandating surgery for official gender registration was unconstitutional. This was a watershed moment for transgender rights in Japan.
The constitutionality of the 2004 Gender Identity Disorder Law was being debated by the highest court. This law requires transgender people to undergo surgical removal of their reproductive organs in order to officially change their gender on family registry.
While the court did not completely overturn the statute, it did ask a lower court to reconsider a controversial clause that would force transgender people to have genitalia that did not match their official gender marker.
Landmark Ruling A Reversal From Previous Stance
This is a stunning reversal from the Supreme Court’s 2019 opinion, which affirmed the surgical requirement as “currently constitutional.”
The most recent instance was a transgender lady who wanted to legally change her sex without having sterilization. She said the practice breaches her rights to equality and respect as a person and creates severe bodily stress.
Lower courts had denied her request to change her register status because it did not comply with surgical standards, despite the fact that years of hormone medication had rendered her effectively infertile.
According to the verdict issued on Wednesday, the requirement to have the procedure “infringes on individual dignity and infringements on the right to pursue happiness under the Constitution.”
As public opinion continues to shift toward surgery, more and more nations are doing away with similar pre-op requirements.
Surgery Clause Just One Barrier for Transgender Rights
The 2004 law was not completely overturned by the Supreme Court, leaving the surgical requirements to be decided by the Tokyo High Court. Human rights advocates, on the other hand, saw this as a monumental victory for transgender people.
Tomoyuki Ochiai, the plaintiff’s attorney, called the decision “historic.” “I hope it will lead to the elimination of the surgery requirement.”
Although significant, the surgical provision is simply one of many legal roadblocks transgender persons confront. In addition to not being married, not having any minor children, and having a diagnosis from two doctors, a person can legally transition to the other gender.
The transgender community continues to face opposition from some who believe transgender identity should be treated as a mental illness.
Lower Court Ruling Earlier This Month
Following a groundbreaking finding by a lower family court in early October that allowed a transgender man to register as male without surgery, the Supreme Court has made its decision.
The surgical requirement was ruled illegal for the first time in Japan by the Hamamatsu branch.
Nearly 12,000 persons have transitioned under the 2004 law, the Supreme Court said. However, advocates argue that this number only scratches the surface of the 300,000 to 500,000 transgender people that live in Japan today.
They claim surgery shouldn’t be mandated by law because modern medicine has alternatives to it. Wednesday’s verdict is a significant step forward in firmly establishing that position.