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Japan’s Supreme Court Issues Landmark Trans Rights Ruling

Japan’s Supreme Court Issues Landmark Trans Rights Ruling

Japan’s Supreme Court Issues Landmark Trans Rights Ruling

The ruling had far-reaching implications in a country that is still hostile to LGBTQ+ rights, including marriage equality.

In a unanimous decision, Japan’s Supreme Court on Tuesday ruled the government cannot restrict a transgender woman employee from using the women’s restrooms at her government job, according to the AP.

“[The government decision] significantly lacks validity,” Yukihiko Imasaki, the presiding judge, said in the ruling. “Therefore, it is illegal, since it is beyond their discretion and is an abuse of their power.”

Imasaki found the National Personnel Authority’s restrictive bathroom policy provided “excessive consideration” to her coworkers and “unfairly neglected the plaintiff’s disadvantage.”

“All people should have the right to live their lives in society based on their own sexual identities,” the unidentified plaintiff said after the decision. “The significance of that should not be reduced to the usage of toilets or public baths.”

“Even if awareness is lacking among the public, the administrative branch must promote understanding and prohibit discrimination,” Toshimasa Yamashita, the plaintiff’s lawyer, said following the decision. “The government now must deal with the workplace environment more appropriately to protect the rights of minorities.”

The plaintiff in the case was diagnosed with gender dysphoria in 1999 before their employment with Japan’s Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (METI). She was transferred to a different post in 2010, one year after she started presenting as a woman at work in 2009. Due to medical reasons, she has not undergone gender-affirming surgery, a prerequisite to officially changing one’s gender in the country. In her new posting, the ministry denied her the use of the women’s bathrooms on her floor out of concern for her coworkers, claiming they had expressed concern about sharing a bathroom with a trans woman. As a result, the plaintiff was forced to go two floors up or down to use a bathroom.

The employee asked the government to remove the restriction in 2013 but was rejected out of concern for the potential discomfort of fellow employees. She filed suit in 2015, and a Tokyo District Court ruled in her favor in 2019. That decision was overturned by the Tokyo High Court in 2021. Today’s ruling from the Supreme Court reverses that decision.

In a news conference following the decision, Chief Cabinet Secretary Hirokazu Matsuno said the government was considering its options in response to the ruling.

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