Trans People Required to Be Sterilized Before Changing Gender After Court Upholds Controversial Law in Japan

People attend the annual Tokyo Rainbow Parade to show support for members of the LGBTQ community, in Tokyo, on May 6, 2018. Japan’s Supreme Court upheld a law that requires transgender people to be sterilized if they want their gender to be reflected on legal documents. Toshifumi KITAMURA / AFP

Japan's Supreme Court has upheld a law that requires transgender people to be sterilized if they want their gender to be reflected on legal documents.

The case put before the Supreme Court by transgender man Takakito Usui was rejected Thursday as he sought legally to change his gender, CNN reported. Usui hoped to overturn Japan's Law 111 of 2003, which stipulates that transgender applicants for gender affirmation "permanently lack functioning" reproductive organs, or to be sterilized.

Usui's case was rejected unanimously by the court, upholding Law 111, which took effect 2004 and also requires completed gender reassignment surgery for gender to be changed on legal documents. However, the Supreme Court did say the law was invasive and should be reconsidered.

"It is unthinkable in this day and time that the law requires a sex-change operation to change gender," Usui's lawyer Tomoyasu Oyama told CNN.

Tomoyasu explained how Law 111 had been a compromise for the LGBT community on the issue of trans rights. "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," he said.

The law was initially created to prevent what the court described as "confusion" and abrupt changes in society. Since the law was enacted some 7,000 individuals have changed their legal gender.

According to Human Rights Watch, which has called the law "abusive" and "discriminatory," to qualify for a gender change on official documents in Japan, applicants must not only be sterilized but must also be single, have no children under the age of 20 and must undergo a psychiatric evaluation to be diagnosed with Gender Identity Disorder.

"These conditions—and in particular the maltreatment many transgender people must accept in order to meet them—also amount to cruel and inhuman treatment and to a violation of transgender people's right to health," the international human rights group argued in a letter to the United Nations on legal recognition of transgender people in Japan.

Demographic trends indicate Japan is becoming a less conservative country on LGBT issues. A poll by the advertising firm Dentsu found 70 person of respondents supported stronger legal protections for LGBT individuals.

Nevertheless, vocal conservative figures have continued to deride progress on LGBT rights. In July, The Japan Times reported, Japanese lawmaker Mio Sugita wrote an editorial claiming "support for LGBTs has gone too far."