“The movement here has not been viewed as about rights but more about helping sick people overcome their illness.”
Japan’s Supreme Court ruled earlier this year transgender people must be sterilized in order to be legally recognized by their self-identified gender.
The ruling came after Takakito Usui, a transgender man, sued over being required to have his ovaries and uterus removed in order to be officially acknowledged as a male.
Japan also requires that transgender people have surgery to make their genitals look more male or female, be older than 20, not have minor children, and be diagnosed with “gender-identity disorder”.
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In the lawsuit, Usui claimed that his right to self-determination had been unconstitutionally violated. The court disagreed.
But all of this might be changing soon according to a report published Thursday in The Economist.
Similar laws were once the norm in many Western countries, including Norway, France, and Sweden. In 2017, the European Court of Human Rights ruled that countries within its jurisdiction must change sterilization laws. Sweden has taken things a step further, going as far as to compensate transgender people who were forced to into mandatory sterilization.
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In Japan, courts have prioritized the maintaining of social harmony over the championing of individual rights. However, the Supreme Court did acknowledge during Usui’s lawsuit that laws may have to evolve along with the rest of society.
Those changes may be coming sooner rather than later. According to recent polling, 70 percent of Japanese residents indicated they support more legal protections for gay and transgender people. Meanwhile, scattered cities and towns around the country have begun giving out partnership certificates to same-sex couples similar to civil union arrangements in the United States.
But Junko Mitsuhashi, a transgender professor and activist who studies transgender issues, says in order for Japan to truly change it must stop looking at transgenderism as a disease in need of a cure.
“The movement here has not been viewed as about rights but more about helping sick people overcome their illness,” Mitsuhashi told The Economist.
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