Japan has elected its first transgender assemblywoman on the island of Hokkaido.
Ayako Fuchigami won one the seat for Sapporo’s Higashi Ward district, in a move hailed as a step forward for trans rights in the region.
“I am representing minority people who face many difficulties every day. I feel the weight of their burden on my shoulders,” Fuchigami said.
“We just want to live a normal life. I want to create a society where opinions from diverse people are reflected,” Fuchigami said at a speech prior to her election.
Citizens are required to undergo sterilisation before legally changing gender in Japan.
Earlier this year, a Human Rights Watch report criticised the procedure for legally changing gender as “regressive and harmful.”
The 84-page publication, released in March, is based on interviews with 48 transgender people living in Japan, as well as testimonies from lawyers, health providers, and academics from across the country.
“The procedure in Japan for changing an individual’s legal gender is regressive and harmful,” a summary of the report reads.
“It rests on an outdated and pejorative notion that a transgender identity is a mental health condition, and requires transgender people who want legal recognition to undergo lengthy, expensive, invasive, and irreversible medical procedures.”
The report, titled ‘A Really High Hurdle’: Japan’s Abusive Transgender Legal Recognition Process, continues: “The relevant legislation—known as the ‘Gender Identity Disorder Special Cases Act’—is contrary to international human rights law and international medical best practices.”
The Human Right Watch report comes after the Supreme Court of Japan upheld its current legislation in January, which forces transgender people to get sterilised before they can legally change their gender.