Should transgender people be sterilised before they are recognised? Earlier this year Japan’s Supreme Court decided that the answer is yes. Takakito Usui, a transgender man (ie, someone who was born female but identifies as male), had sued over a requirement that, to be officially designated a man, he has to have his ovaries and uterus removed (as well as have surgery to make his genitals look male, be over 20, single, have no minor children and have been diagnosed as suffering from “gender-identity disorder”). He argued that all this violated his right to self-determination and was therefore unconstitutional. The court disagreed.
Human-rights groups say demanding irreversible surgery is outrageous. Although several Asian countries, including South Korea, have similar laws, Western countries that once also used to require sterilisation, such as Norway, France and Sweden, no longer do. In 2017 the European Court of Human Rights called for the change in all 47 countries under its jurisdiction. Sweden has started to compensate transgender people who underwent mandatory sterilisation.
Critics of Japan’s laws also reject the notion that transgender people are suffering from a psychological disorder. “The movement here has not been viewed as about rights but more about helping sick people overcome their illness,” says Junko Mitsuhashi, a professor and campaigner who studies the history of transgender issues. She is also a transgender woman who has not gained legal recognition for her gender, having been unwilling to undergo massively invasive surgery. Read more via Economist