Japan’s Surgical Requirement to Change Sex Ruled Unconstitutional

SHIZUOKA (Jiji Press) — A Japanese court has ruled that a law provision effectively requiring transgender people to undergo surgery to switch genders on their family registries is unconstitutional and void.

The Hamamatsu branch of Shizuoka Family Court in central Japan became the first court in Japan to rule that the provision of the special law on gender dysphoria is unconstitutional, according to lawyers for the petitioner of the case. The decision was issued on Wednesday.

As a condition for a change of sex in the family register, the law, which went into effect in 2004, mandates absence of gonads or permanent lack of reproductive capacity, effectively equivalent to requiring surgery. In 2019, the Supreme Court judged that the provision was “constitutional at this moment.”

The latest domestic relations case was filed by a 48-year-old resident of Hamamatsu, Shizuoka Prefecture, who was born female but demanded that the gender on the family registry be switched to male after being diagnosed with gender dysphoria.

In the decision, presiding judge Takehiro Sekiguchi of the Hamamatsu branch said that the way transgender people’s bodily integrity is being restricted uniformly, given the possibility of problems related to parent-child relationship, is not necessary or reasonable in terms of means and mode of human rights restrictions.

Sekiguchi ruled that the provision lacks necessity and rationality in light of the current social situation, allowing gender change.

The top court is expected to rule on the constitutionality of the law provision again as early as this year to factor in changes in the social situation.