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I have already activated my account. The government of Japan should work urgently across ministries to realize the recommendation put forward by the United Nations independent expert on sexual orientation and gender identity during his address to the UN General Assembly. The independent expert called for the elimination of abusive requirements as prerequisites for change of legal sex or gender, including:. Human Rights Watch conducted the research for this report between August and December and additional research between July and November with individuals from 14 prefectures in Japan.
The law and its implementation has not changed since , when the initial interviews were conducted, so the facts presented remain relevant to analysis of the law today. Researchers conducted interviews with 48 transgender people, as well as interviews with lawyers, health providers, and academics. Interviewees were informed that they could stop the interview at any time or decline to answer any questions they did not feel comfortable answering.
No compensation was paid to either survey respondents or those who participated in face-to-face interviews. Human Rights Watch reimbursed public transportation fares for interviewees who traveled to meet researchers in safe, discreet locations. The interviews were conducted in Japanese, or with Japanese-English interpretation.
All interviews were conducted privately, with participants interviewed alone. In this report, pseudonyms are used for all transgender interviewees except those who expressed a strong preference that their real names be used. Everyone has a gender identity. Most people identify as either female or male, in line with what they were assigned on their birth certificates. Some may identify as a gender that is different from the one they were assigned at birth, and some may identify as both, or neither.
Historically, many medical systems, including those supported by the World Health Organization WHO , have categorized being transgender as a mental health condition. However, this has been gradually changing, and the WHO has updated its standards—as discussed later in this report. There is widespread consensus among medical and psychological experts, consistent with the views of transgender communities around the world, that experiencing gender as different from that which was assigned at birth is not a disorder or a disease—but rather a natural variation of human experience.
Transgender people, in Japan and elsewhere, experience mental health problems like everyone else.
Research suggests that transgender populations experience higher rates of some mental health problems. Transgender people incur mental health problems from stigma, discrimination, bullying, and harassment that are not inherent in gender non-conformity. These conditions may require diagnoses in order to receive treatment, but they are separate from the experience of gender identity as such. Transgender people, as per the usage in this report, are not experiencing a form of mental health condition; rather, they experience a deep sense of identification with a gender different from the sex assigned to them at birth.
They may or may not take steps to physically alter their bodies, such as undergoing hormone replacement therapy HRT or sex reassignment surgery SRS. They may or may not seek mental health care related to their transition or associated anxieties. Gender identity is not the same thing as sexual orientation.
Like cisgender people, transgender people may identify as heterosexual, homosexual, bisexual, or asexual. Transgender people, like anyone else, can form relationships with people of all other genders. While there have been some changes in national laws recognizing and protecting transgender people in recent years,  many countries, like Japan, still enforce outdated, discriminatory, and coercive policies.
Requirements of a minimum age, parental status, and relationship status for undergoing processes to change legal gender are discriminatory.
To the Ministry of Justice
Due to upcoming changes in global diagnostic systems, as set by the WHO, it is also important for Japan to update its legal gender recognition system to come in line with modern medicine. As detailed below, a simple shift toward allowing people autonomy to determine how their gender is expressed and recorded is gaining momentum globally. It should also not force transgender people to undergo unwanted medical procedures to be recognized or achieve associated rights. And it should not construe gender identity as a medical condition in need of diagnosis.
Legal gender recognition in Japan is regulated by Law No. The law came into effect on July 16, The legal gender recognition decision is made by the Family Court. In addition to providing a certificate attesting to the fact that the individual has been diagnosed with GID, an applicant to the court must meet the following qualifications:. According to Nakamura:. As the concept of GID entered Japanese medical practice and society, it provided an explanatory framework for transgender people to discuss and disclose their identity and access services.
The GID Special Cases Act, while serving to acknowledge the existence of a population and allowing for their legal recognition, is a formidable barrier for transgender people in Japan. The requirement of a GID diagnosis is unscientific; the requirement of single marital status and not having minor children is discriminatory; and the requirement of surgeries that sterilize amounts to coerced sterilization. Some transgender people may indeed want to undertake all or some of these actions as part of their transition.
Such a shift may not be insignificant for individuals. As one transgender woman in Tokyo told Human Rights Watch:. However, while the framework may indeed provide a functional and preferred method for some transgender people to seek care and legal status, the requirements in the current law should not be applied to everyone. The legal requirements for transgender people in Japan to obtain a GID diagnosis often involves unnecessary, arbitrary, and burdensome tests. The law forces all transgender people who want to secure legal recognition of their appropriate gender to secure diagnosis of a psychological disorder, to refrain from having children at any point during the two decades prior to securing recognition and to be unmarried.
It forces many would-be applicants—including those who would not otherwise choose to take these steps— to undergo physically transformative surgical interventions, undergo sterilization, and contemplate the breakup of existing marriages. It sets a mandatory minimum age of 20 for achieving legal gender recognition.
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