Under the current Gender Identity Disorder Special Cases Act (GID) in Japan, transgender citizens must undergo forced sterilization for their gender identity to be legally recognized.
A report by Human Rights Watch titled “A Really High Hurdle: Japan’s Abusive Transgender Legal Recognition Process” examined the human rights violations perpetuated under GID, based on interviews with 48 transgender Japanese citizens, as well as lawyers, health providers and academics from 14 districts in Japan.
The GID has been criticized internationally for coercing invasive and largely unwanted surgeries, justified by an outdated law that classifies being transgender as a mental health condition. The procedure involves a mandatory psychological diagnosis – with lengthy waits for clinic appointments and subsequent transferals that can take up to a year – and subsequent irreversible medical procedures.
Citizens struggle in the education system and finding employment, which like Spain and Turkey that have similar laws, classifies people under strict binaries. This puts pressure on transgender people to follow the procedures before entering the workforce while suffering ever-present barriers to inclusion within society. This forces people to come out to their parents before they are ready, as the procedures often require applicants to use their family’s health insurance.
Further rules under GID mean eligible applicants must be single and without underage children (under 20-years-old), rules which further violate UN Human Rights like the right to have a family, the right to privacy, and the right to freedom of expression.
Most notably, the law violates the right to equality and freedom from discrimination, while the required medical procedures violate the right to freedom from degrading treatment or punishment.
Japan’s Supreme Court argues for sterilization as transgender males becoming pregnant would cause “confusion” in society, in effect maintaining homogeneity in a largely conservative society. Polls suggest, however, that citizens should be legally recognized.
The GID came into force in 2004, but changes have come about since then in terms of taking steps to recognize transgender people, both in Japan and internationally.
The World Health Organization published its new International Classification of Diseases (ICD), which will be presented to member states in May this year. The revised edition moves being transgender from a mental illness to ‘gender incongruence’, under conditions related to sexual health – meaning the term ‘gender identity disorder’ no longer exists internationally. Meanwhile, the American Psychological Association revised the terms in 2012.
In 2016, the Japanese Education Ministry issued a Guidebook for Teachers on how to treat LGBT students in schools. In 2017, the Ministry announced that it had revised the national bullying prevention policy to include LGBT students.
In 2018, in anticipation of hosting the 2020 Olympics, the Tokyo Metropolitan Government passed a law that disallows the city government, citizens, and enterprises from discriminating based on gender identity or sexual orientation. The county has also voted for two UN Human Rights Council resolutions which aim to end violence and discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity.
In 2018 a UN independent expert on sexual orientation and gender identity also recommended in his address to the UN General Assembly to eliminate abusive requirements in the legal process to change gender in Japan. He further recommended that a revised version of the law ensure legal recognition in all aspects of people’s lives, whether it be in education, employment, or personal matters.
These changes and recommendations provide Japan with a prerequisite to alter its law. A revision of Japan’s current law would bring the broadly unheard-of topic to the limelight and educate people on what it means to be transgender. Citizens could escape marginalization from society and humiliating, irreversible procedures.
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Image courtesy of Tim Mossholder on Unsplash