A 38-year-old transgender woman in Hokkaido who has been convicted of theft has asked the Justice Ministry and local prosecutors to be treated as a female inmate, despite being listed as male in her family registry.

She has been living as a woman and wants to be supervised by female prison officers while continuing hormone treatment, a source close to her said Tuesday.

She was indicted last year without arrest for shoplifting in the city of Sapporo. A district court handed down a prison sentence of 18 months, and the judgment was upheld by a high court. In July, the Supreme Court rejected an appeal and the woman is set to be imprisoned soon.

She also served 16 months in prison between 2011 and 2013 for theft, and complained of mental anguish as a result of being overseen by male prison guards as well as palpitations and insomnia after being deprived of hormone therapy.

Prisons are determined according to sex as recorded in family registries, but transgender women can be overseen by female officers if they have had male genitalia removed, according to the Justice Ministry. The woman in this case has not completed transition nor changed her family registry.

The ministry’s Correction Bureau said male officers would normally oversee an inmate in a similar situation unless the head of a prison determines otherwise. But it added that it has paid due consideration to people in similar circumstances such as by assigning female officers if necessary.

Regarding the hormone treatment, the bureau said it is “not the state’s responsibility” to allow it “unless there would be irreparable damage and the bureau determines there is a necessity” to do so.

Mikiya Nakatsuka, professor at Okayama University and a specialist on transgender issues, said the government “should be more flexible regardless of whether an inmate has undergone surgery.”

“Hormone therapy is crucial for maintaining health, so the government should seek the opinions of doctors (working with) gender identity disorder,” Nakatsuka said.

According to research led by Katsuki Harima, a doctor at Harima Mental Clinic, about 22,000 people consulted medical institutions due to GID as of the end of 2015.

Requests from around 6,000 people to change their sex on their family registries had been accepted as of 2015. A special law came into force in 2004 permitting such changes if one applies to a family court.

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