Prosecutors in Osaka, Japan, are considering charging a transgender woman for using the women’s restroom at a commercial facility.
The commercial facility called Osaka Prefectural Police after a customer complained that she could not use the women’s washroom because “a man wearing women’s clothes” was using it, causing her to “fear” for her safety.
Police arrived on scene to discover that a transgender woman in her 40s using the restroom. They also confirmed that the same woman had previously entered the store’s ladies’ room in May 2021.
The woman told police she knew she was not supposed to use facility because her gender is listed as “male” on her family registry.
Police say the transgender woman identifies as a woman, but presents as male for work and only dresses in women’s clothing on her days off, according to the Japan Times.
Last Thursday, the police referred the case to local prosecutors, leaving it up to them to decide whether they will pursue charges against the transgender woman.
Mikiya Nakatsuka, the president of the Japanese Society of Gender Identity Disorder and a professor of health sciences at Okayama University, told the Japan Times that many transgender people in Japan “pay attention when they use toilets at public facilities so they can stay out of trouble.” She expressed concerns that press reports about this particular incident would spark a backlash against transgender individuals.
“I am worried that if this single case draws attention, it might lead to more prejudice and discrimination against them,” Nakatsuka said.
Takashi Kazama, a professor at Chukyo University, argued that restrooms that are separated by gender will inevitably lead to discrimination against trans individuals.
“Gender identity is invisible, so people cannot help but judge from a person’s appearance on the appropriateness of the use of toilets separated by genders,” they said.
Under a 2003 law, transgender people in Japan cannot change the gender marker on legal documents unless they are over 22 years old, unmarried, do not have children under the age of 20, and can provide proof that they have been sterilized.
Many LGBTQ advocates have argued that law is discriminatory, but the Supreme Court of Japan upheld the law in 2019, arguing that the government has an interest in limiting societal “confusion” and “abrupt changes” regarding a person’s gender identity. The court also claimed that sterilization is necessary because there may be “problems” in parent-child relationships if transgender people are allowed to reproduce and raise children.
Due to the obstacles involved, only 7,000 people, out of a population of than 125 million, were able to successfully change their gender marker and have their gender identity legally recognized from 2003 to 2019.
That said, global human rights bodies, including the World Health Organization, have condemned the practice of forced sterilization, and the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Torture has classified forced sterilization as a “human rights violation.”
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