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  • Emerging trouble: A reveler waves during the Tokyo Rainbow Pride parade celebrating lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) culture in Tokyo.

    Emerging trouble: A reveler waves during the Tokyo Rainbow Pride parade celebrating lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) culture in Tokyo. | Photo: REUTERS

Published 20 March 2019

Japan should stop forcing transgender people to be surgically sterilized to get legal recognition of their gender identity as it constitutes a human rights violation, Human Rights Watch report. 

A Human Rights Watch (HRW) report urges Japan to prioritize revision of a law that requires transgender people to be surgically sterilized to get legal recognition of their gender identity, The report, released Wednesday, denouced Japan's requirement of a medical intervention as a condition of having their gender identity legally recognized saying it violates Japan’s human rights obligations and runs counter to international medical standards.

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“Japan should uphold the rights of transgender people and stop forcing them to undergo surgery to be legally recognized,” said Kanae Doi, Japan director at HRW.

“The law is based on an outdated premise that treats gender identity as a so-called ‘mental illness’ and should be urgently revised,” she added.

Transgender people told the group that Japan’s law infringes on their rights. One transgender man said: “I don’t want to [have surgery], to be honest. However, I have to just because it is a requirement…I feel pressured to be operated on – so terrible.”

Others explained the trade-offs they felt forced to make. “Of course I want to change the gender on my official family register, and have relationships with my significant other,” said a transgender woman in Tokyo. “But the walls that I have to overcome are just too big.”

The report criticized the law as based on a “pejorative notion that a transgender identity is a mental health condition” and blasted the requirement that transgender people “undergo lengthy, expensive, invasive, and irreversible medical procedures.”

The United Nations special rapporteur on torture noted in 2013 that transgender people being “required to undergo often unwanted sterilization surgeries as a prerequisite to enjoy legal recognition of their preferred gender” was a human rights violation.

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