Human rights lawyer urges Japan to end forced sterilisation of trans people

Vic Parsons January 18, 2020
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The Honourable Michael D. Kirby said Japan must end its "regime" of forced sterilisations. (Wikimedia/SashaHMP)

An international human-rights lawyer has called on Japan to end its “regime” of forcing sterilisation on trans people.

Michael Kirby, 80, who is co-chair of the International Bar Association Human Rights Institute and a former justice of the Australian High Court, said there is “no excuse” for Japan’s failure to reform its gender recognition laws.

“The purpose of law is to protect people and organise society according to principles of justice. There is nothing protective or just about Japan’s Gender Identity Disorder Special Cases Act.

“It needs to be revised urgently as there is no excuse for continuing a regime of forcing sterilisation on people,” Kirby said.

In a piece originally published in IRONNA, a Japanese newspaper, and subsequently reprinted by the Thomson Reuters Foundation, Kirby said that it was time for Japan to take action.

He described attending a UN consultation in Hong Kong about the law and trans people, to which the organisers also invited a Belgian surgeon. The surgeon brought slides of photos of trans people who’d undergone “correctional surgery”.

The photos showed “how invasive trans surgery is”, Kirby wrote, and how “totally disproportionate imposing it on unwilling people is when all they generally want is a new passport or identity document”.

Following that consultation, the proposed law in Hong Kong was withdrawn.

“More people who propose compulsory reassignment surgery for the unwilling should be required to see those medical slides and to consider what they are demanding of a fellow human being who knows who they are and does not feel the need of invasive surgery to prove it,” Kirby said.

“When Japan instituted its legal gender recognition law in 2004, it was a major turning point in how the government treated issues of gender and sexuality. At that time, major Japanese allies and trade partners such as Germany, the Netherlands and my home country of Australia all required trans people to be sterilised before they were legally recognised.

“Each of these governments – and dozens more from Argentina to Nepal – have subsequently passed laws declaring that surgery is not a requirement for legal recognition. Under these new legal regimes, transgender citizens have been able to thrive, and society has benefited from the increased freedom and respect afforded to this minority group.”

Japan, which recently ruled that it’s unlawful and discriminatory for trans people not to be permitted to use the bathroom corresponding to their gender, needs to “join its peers” and “put forced sterilisation of transgender people in the past”, Kirby concluded.

Related topics: gender recognition, legal recognition, trans healthcare, trans rights

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