Japan Supreme Court rules restricting toilets for transgender woman 'unacceptable'

By Reuters   July 11, 2023 | 01:27 am PT
Japan Supreme Court rules restricting toilets for transgender woman 'unacceptable'
A participant holds a sign as they march during the Tokyo Rainbow Pride parade, celebrating advances in LGBTQ rights and calling for marriage equality, in Tokyo, Japan April 23, 2023. Photo by Reuters/Issei Kato
Japan's Supreme Court ruled on Tuesday that restricting a transgender woman's use of toilets at her workplace was "unacceptable", a decision that may help promote LGBT rights in the only G7 nation without legal protection for same-sex unions.

The ruling, the first by Japan's highest court on the work environment for LGBT individuals, comes in the wake of a series of mostly positive regional court rulings about same-sex marriage and after the passing of a law to promote understanding of the LGBT community.

An official at the economy ministry who was assigned male at birth sued because she was only allowed to use women's toilets several floors away from her office, instead of closer ones. A Tokyo District Court ruled in 2019 that these restrictions were unlawful, but the decision was reversed in 2021 by the Tokyo High Court.

In Japan, transgender people can only legally change their gender on their family register if they have had gender reassignment surgery. The woman in the court case was unable to do so due to health reasons, media said.

In five local court cases on same-sex marriage in Japan over the last two years, the most recent a month ago, four courts ruled either that not allowing it was unconstitutional or nearly so. One said not allowing it was in line with the constitution.

On June 16, Japan enacted a law meant to promote understanding of the LGBT community that critics say provides no human rights guarantees, though some lawmakers said it was too permissive.

Though the law was watered-down before being passed, due to demands from conservative lawmakers, it still sparked an anti-transgender backlash. Some lawmakers formed a group to guarantee the safety of women in toilets and public baths or hot springs.

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