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Historic decision in favor of transgender people in Japan

Historic decision in favor of transgender people in Japan

Japan’s Supreme Court issued a landmark decision on Tuesday in favor of a transgender employee who sued the government to ensure women’s access to restrooms at her workplace.

The Supreme Court ruled that denying this woman in her fifties access to the nearest restrooms, and forcing her to use other restrooms located on other floors of her office, was “grossly lacking in validity”.

The court added that this restriction “was excessively in favor of the other employees and failed to take into account how the plaintiff could be at a disadvantage”.

This is the first ruling by Japan’s highest court on working conditions for LGBT people.

Experts say the move could change how the public and private sectors deal with the sensitive issues of women-only spaces.

Asked about the court’s ruling, the Prime Minister’s Office said the government would “take appropriate action” after studying the ruling.

Government spokesman Hirokazu Matsuno said the government will work resolutely to achieve a society where diversity is respected.

The case began with a complaint from a transgender woman who was told by her employer, the Ministry of Economy and Trade, that she could only use the women’s restroom two floors up from her office.

She said barring her from the nearest women’s toilet “severely undermines” her dignity and violates the law that protects state employees in the workplace.

The woman was diagnosed with gender dysphoria around 1999, when she was already a government employee, and in 2009 she told her boss she wanted to dress and act like a woman.

The department granted some of her requests, but she insisted she could only use women’s restrooms a few floors from her office, citing a lack of “public understanding” of the transgender situation.

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The decision was approved by an impartial body to arbitrate decisions concerning civil servants.

However, at a hearing last month, the complainant argued that no employee in the department had expressly expressed discomfort with shared toilet use.

Japanese law currently requires transgender people to undergo surgery if they want to have their identity legally recognized.

The plaintiff in this case has not changed his gender but lives as a woman.

In 2019, a Tokyo court ruled in his favour, finding that the ministry’s treatment “restricts important legal rights.”

But a higher court overturned the ruling in 2021 and sided with the state, acknowledging that it had a responsibility to consider the “embarrassment and anxiety” felt by others when this woman used the women’s toilet.

Earlier this year, Japan passed its first law ostensibly intended to protect the LGBT community from discrimination. However, activists decried the bill’s watered-down wording, which only opposes “unfair discrimination.”