The House of Councilors Judicial Affairs Committee voted unanimously Tuesday to submit a bill to the Diet that would allow people with gender identity disorder to change their officially registered gender in their family registries under certain conditions.
The bill, compiled by a team of lawmakers from the three ruling parties, is expected to be approved by the Diet during the current session, which runs through July 28.
The bill defines someone with GID as having a psychological makeup different from their biological sex and a desire to align with the opposite sex physically and socially.
Qualifying for a registered gender change would require that the person be diagnosed by at least two doctors as having GID, be aged 20 or above, unmarried, have no children and no longer have functioning reproductive organs as a result of sex-change surgery.
Such a person would be able to change the gender stated in the family registry after a family court approves a request to do so.
Some people with GID, their supporters and legal experts consider the bill’s conditions as being overly harsh, especially the clause about having had no offspring.
“There is no such regulation even in similar laws in other countries,” one supporter said. “It is too cruel to bind one’s future to past behavior.”
The United States and many European countries allow those with GID to change their legal gender under the law or via court rulings.
Chieko Noono, a Liberal Democratic Party member who chaired the legislative team, defended the conditions, saying if they were too loose the bill would have a difficult time gaining enough support to clear the Diet because Japanese society is not yet ready to accept same-sex marriages and parenting.
She urged understanding from people with GID, because the bill stipulates that its contents, including the conditions, would be reviewed three years after the law takes effect.
Even people with GID who have children said they want the law enacted as soon as possible, despite the conditions that would exclude them from qualifying.
Yoshie Homma, who lives as a woman but has fathered two children, said she does not mind being excluded because she sees the proposed law as a first step.
“We (people with GID) have nowhere to stand right now. All we want is a narrow path to begin with,” said Homma, who is in her 40s.
If passed, the law would take effect a year after promulgation.
People with GID feel uncomfortable with their biological gender and desire to live and be accepted as members of the opposite sex. They often face obstacles regarding employment, voting and overseas travel because the identity under which they live and the gender noted in their official documents differ.
Under the current Family Registration Law, registries can be corrected only when “mistakes” are found.
Those diagnosed with GID have been allowed to change their name, but requests to change their legal gender have been rejected by family and high courts because the gender registered at birth is not interpreted as a mistake.
Sex-change operations were long taboo, but the Japanese Society of Psychiatry and Neurology introduced guidelines for them in May 1997. Saitama Medical School began offering the operations in 1998 and since then, more than 20 people with GID have undergone the surgery there and at Okayama University.
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