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New Momentum To Reform Transgender Law In Japan: HRW Report

HRW's 55-page report, “‘The Law Undermines Dignity’: Momentum to Revise Japan’s Legal Gender Recognition Process,” documents the barriers faced by transgender people in Japan

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Ishita Chakraborty
Ishita Chakraborty
A computer engineer who has a passion for writing, a hodophile, social activist, youth activist for PETA India, and a linguaphile. A journalist covering Social issues & United Nations initiatives for transcontinental times.

JAPAN. Tokyo: On Tuesday, Human Rights Watch reported that transgender people in Japan face continuing barriers to changing their recognized gender. The Japanese government is still following an outdated transgender recognition law.

HRW’s 55-page report, “‘The Law Undermines Dignity’: Momentum to Revise Japan’s Legal Gender Recognition Process,” documents the barriers faced by transgender people in Japan. This is the third report by Human Rights Watch since 2016 addressing transgender issues in Japan.

Gender Identity Disorder Special Act

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The Gender Identity Disorder Special Act (GID) enables some transgender people to legally change their gender identity.

However, the procedure for changing one’s gender requires sterilization, surgery, and an outdated diagnosis. This procedure is unethical, harmful, and discriminatory. The law has been heavily criticized by medical and academic experts. The authorities believe that the law should be substantially revised.

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“Transgender people are courageously speaking out against Japan’s abusive and discriminatory transgender law, and increasingly gaining support from experts in medicine, law, and academia,” said Kanae Doi, Japan director at Human Rights Watch. 

Currently, GID law has five requirements for a transgender person to be legally recognized according to their gender identity. 

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The requirement includes the person to be at least 20 years old; unmarried; not have any children under age 20; not have gonads or permanently lack functioning gonads; and have a physical form that is “endowed with genitalia that closely resembles the physical form of an alternative gender.” 

Also Read: Afghan Transgender Man Beaten After Appearing In A Satiric Series

Each of these requirements contravenes Japan’s international human rights obligations and is opposed by the World Health Organization (WHO) and other medical expert bodies. 

The diagnosis requirement rests on an outdated and pejorative notion that a transgender identity is a “mental disorder”. The surgery also forces transgender people who want legal recognition to undergo lengthy, expensive, invasive, and irreversible medical procedures. 

Japan’s GID Special Cases Act was drafted in 2003 and was implemented in 2004. Legislatures, domestic courts, and regional human rights courts and bodies have in recent years found that such requirements violate international human rights law. 

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