Japan’s top court axes sterilization surgery requirement for legal gender change


Japan’s Supreme Court has ruled that a law requiring transgender individuals to undergo sterilization surgery to officially change their gender is unconstitutional on Wednesday.

The Supreme Court’s ruling: The landmark verdict, which was welcomed by LGBTQ+ advocates, applies specifically to the sterilization portion of the 2003 law but does not address the overall requirement for gender-transition surgery. The law’s sterilization requirement was deemed to present a “cruel choice” for those seeking a gender change, infringing on their human rights.

Under Japanese law, transgender people must meet several requirements, including presenting a diagnosis of gender dysphoria and having specific physical characteristics, to change their gender legally. The recent ruling was in response to a lawsuit challenging these requirements, with the plaintiff's lawyers arguing that the rules violated constitutional rights and imposed physical and financial burdens on transgender individuals.

“This decision was very unexpected and I'm very surprised,” the plaintiff, identified only as a transgender woman, said in a statement, according to Reuters.

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Further examination: The Supreme Court’s decision is a step toward allowing transgender people to change their gender on official documents without the need for sterilization. However, the Supreme Court has sent the case back to the high court for further examination of the surgery requirement.

Growing acceptance of LGBTQ+: The ruling also comes at a time when LGBTQ+ rights are gaining attention in Japan. Although progress has been slow, Japan remains the only G7 member without same-sex marriage or comprehensive anti-discrimination laws. Activists in Japan have been pushing for changes to these laws, and the recent ruling reflects a growing acceptance of LGBTQ+ rights in the country.

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