Japanese Law Means Transgender People Must Be Sterilised Before They Can Legally Change Gender


Japanese Law Means Transgender People Must Be Sterilised Before They Can Legally Change GenderPA Images/BBC

A controversial law in Japan means transgender people must be sterilised if they wish to be legally recognised as the gender they identify as. 

The law came as transgender people were given the right to legally change their gender identity in 2004 and has been described by critics as a ‘gross violation of rights’, as it prevents trans people from changing their gender on the family register.


Fumino Sugiyama, a 39-year-old transgender man living in Tokyo, Japan, opened up about the issue and explained that despite identifying as male, the fact that he still has a uterus and ovaries means he is not legally deemed as such.

Speaking to BBC News, Sugiyama explained he was assigned female at birth, but has considered himself to be male from a very young age. Describing the battle between how he felt on the inside and the way his body looked on the outside when he was younger, Sugiyama said he felt like he was being ‘torn apart’ and that he was ‘crazy’.

Sugiyama underwent a mastectomy at the age of 28, after which he started taking testosterone injections. However, the fact he still has a uterus and ovaries prevents him from meeting the requirements of sterility needed to change his gender on the family register.


Professor Yuko Higashi, of Osaka Prefecture University, said Japan decided to implement five requirements in its Gender Identity Disorder (GID) law in 2004.

PA ImagesPA Images

These included being at least 20 years of age, unmarried, having no minor biological children, being ‘indefinitely incapable’ of reproduction or have your reproductive organs removed indefinitely, and that external genitalia must correspond to that of the gender you wish to become.

Sugiyama expressed his belief that not being able to get married is a ‘major discrimination’, noting that he cannot get married to his female partner or have any legal ties with their children because he is legally registered as a woman and Japan does not recognise same-sex marriage.


As a result, if Sugiyama’s partner was to become ill, or if something happened to their child, Sugiyama might not be able to visit them in hospital.

The 39-year-old argued it ‘should be up to the person to decide if they want the surgery if they feel uncomfortable in their own body’.

He added: ‘Forcing people to have the surgery, even if they do not want it, is a really big problem.’


According to researchers cited by BBC News, reports of coerced or involuntary sterilisation have been seen in at least 38 countries over the past 20 years, with women and marginalised groups among the worst hit.

If you’ve been affected by any of these issues and want to speak to someone in confidence contact Mindline Trans+ on 0300 330 5468. The line is open 8pm–midnight Mondays and Fridays and is run by trans volunteers.

Topics: News, gender, Human Rights, Japan, LGBTQ+, Now, transgender


BBC News
  1. BBC News

    Trans in Japan: Sterilisation and legal gender recognition

Emily Brown
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