Japan’s supreme court ruled Wednesday that the government cannot require transgender people to undergo sterilization in order to change their legal gender, a ruling that places the country in line with other developed democracies on LGBTQ rights, Bloomberg reported.
The case centered on a Japanese man who wished to change his legal status to female. The plaintiff said that surgery would impose harsh physical and economic burdens, adding that the long-term use of hormone therapy has resulted in reduced fertility.
In its verdict, the court found that it was unconstitutional to require citizens to be sterilized before they can officially change genders, the BBC added.
The ruling will force the government to amend a 2004 law, which requires that a person can only change their gender if they have no reproductive function.
The legislation also requires people wishing to change their gender to be above the age of 18, unmarried – because same-sex marriage is not allowed in Japan – and have no minor children. They also must be diagnosed with gender dysphoria.
Human rights groups welcomed the ruling, but others – including members of the ruling party – opposed the changes.
Meanwhile, despite the new ruling, the plaintiff will still not be allowed to change his gender because of another requirement: The 2004 law requires the reproductive organs to resemble those of the gender with which they identify.
The supreme court asked a lower court to rule whether gender changes without surgery can be allowed.
The verdict brings Japan closer to Western countries in terms of LGBTQ rights. Earlier this year, the country passed a law promoting LGBTQ understanding – but did not provide any specific rights or ban discrimination.
According to Equaldex, there are 86 nations that allow changes to legal genders, with 39 of them requiring surgery.