Japan backs transgender people using the bathroom that matches their gender in landmark court case
It’s illegal to impose restrictions on the bathrooms that trans people can use, a court in Japan has ruled.
A trans woman brought her case against the government to a court in Tokyo, arguing that her workplace discriminated against her when it limited the bathrooms that she could use.
The woman, who worked for the government at the Economy, Trade and Industry Ministry, will be paid damages of ¥1.32 million.
It’s the first ruling in Japan in favour of a person suffering workplace discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity, said lawyers representing the woman, according to the Japan Times.
“The restriction is illegal because it constrains people’s benefits of living their lives in accordance with their self-identified genders,” presiding judge Kenji Ebara said when handing down the ruling.
Ebara also said he found it “unacceptable” that the ministry’s official in charge of personnel told the plaintiff to “go back to being a man if you’re not having (reassignment) surgery”.
The woman had a diagnosis of gender dysphoria before she began working in the government department, according to the ruling, and began presenting as a woman at work in in 2010 after consulting with her bosses in 2009.
But her transition has not included surgery, for health reasons, which means she can’t change her gender on official documents.
Her workplace allowed her to use the women’s breakroom, but banned her from using the women’s bathroom on her floor, instead asking her to use the disabled bathroom or the women’s bathroom on a different floor – because her female colleagues were reluctant to use the same toilets as her, according to the lawsuit.
After she asked the National Personnel Authority for help in 2013 and her request was rejected, she filed a lawsuit in 2015 seeking damages to compensate for the psychological pain caused by the restrictions and seeking improvements in her work conditions.
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In response, her work demanded she publicly declare that her legal gender is male in order to use the women’s bathroom.
The court ruled that this was an “abuse of discretion”.
“The ruling will encourage other people having the same concern. Employers should respect human rights,” the woman said at a news conference.
At the beginning of 2019, Japan ruled that trans people must be sterilised if they want to undergo gender transition surgery, which is the route to changing legal gender.
Last year, the Japanese government announced that it would subsidise gender affirming surgery for trans people—as long as they are not receiving hormone treatment and do not have any other pre-existing conditions.