TOKYO: Japan’s top court ruled on Wednesday (Oct 25) that a legal clause requiring people to undergo sterilisation surgery if they want to legally change their gender is unconstitutional.
Several international organisations including the European Court of Human Rights, the World Professional Association for Transgender Health and UN experts had said the requirement was discriminatory and infringed upon human rights.
While rights group welcomed the landmark verdict, a decision by the judges to ask a lower court to deliberate on a separate clause, requiring that the genital organs of people who want to change their gender resemble those of the opposite gender, was met with disappointment.
“This decision was very unexpected and I’m very surprised,” the plaintiff, identified only as a transgender woman under the age of 50, said in a statement read out by her lawyers. She added, however, that she was “disappointed” that a decision on the other clause had been postponed.
Some lawmakers and women’s groups in Japan had said a ruling that challenges the existing law would sow confusion and undermine women’s rights. The Supreme Court threw out a similar bid to scrap the sterilisation requirement in 2019.
Human Rights Watch said Wednesday’s ruling meant the government now had to follow up.
“The government is under the obligation to make any laws constitutional so the government now needs to act quickly to remove the clause,” said Kanae Doi, Japan director of the rights group. “It’s late, but never too late.”
Deputy Chief Cabinet Secretary Hiroshi Moriya told a regular press conference on Wednesday that the government will “examine the decision closely and respond appropriately”.