A Japanese court rules it’s unconstitutional to require surgery for a change of gender on documents

Tokyo, October 13

A court in central Japan ruled Thursday that it is unconstitutional to require a transgender person to undergo surgery to remove their current reproductive organs in order for them to receive documentation under their new gender.

The verdict in Shizuoka family court upholds a transgender plaintiff’s request to change their gender from female to male without having surgery, a decision that was hailed as a landmark by LGBTQ+ advocates. The verdict sets only a limited precedent, but a similar case before Japan’s Supreme Court could set legal precedent nationally.

Gen Suzuki, 48, filed a lawsuit in 2021, seeking a court decision to allow a change of his biologically assigned gender of female to male to match his self-identity without an operation. He said the requirement to undergo surgery was inhuman and unconstitutional.

On Thursday, the Shizuoka family court upheld his request, saying that surgery to remove sexual organs would cause an irreversible loss of reproductive functions, and that to require the surgery “raises a question of its necessity and rationality” from medical and social perspectives.

The decision comes at a time of heightened awareness of issues surrounding LGBTQ+ people in Japan.

Activists have stepped up efforts to pass an anti-discrimination law since a former aide to Prime Minister Fumio Kishida said in February that he wouldn’t want to live next to LGBTQ+ people and that citizens would flee Japan if same-sex marriage were allowed. Japan is the only Group of Seven country that does not allow same-sex marriage.

The Shizuoka court said a growing social acceptance of sexual and gender diversity makes the requirement to undergo surgery to eliminate the possibility of childbirth outdated and goes counter to a global effort toward creating a more inclusive society.

Suzuki welcomed the ruling and said he was encouraged by positive changes in society. “I want children to hang on to their hope. I want to see a society where sexual diversity is naturally accepted,” Suzuki said.

Suzuki started having gender identity issues in childhood, and at the age of 40 started hormonal treatment and then breast removal surgery. Suzuki now has a female partner, according to the court ruling released by his support group.In July, Japan’s Supreme Court ruled that restrictions imposed by a government ministry on a transgender female employee’s use of restrooms at her workplace were illegal — the first such ruling on the working environment for LGBTQ+ individuals. AP

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