March 20 (UPI) -- A Japanese law that forces transgendered people to undergo surgical sterilization if they want to be legally recognized by their preferred gender violates the Asian country's human rights obligations, said an international human rights organization.
In the 84-page report, titled "A Really High Hurdle: Japan's Abusive Transgender Legal Recognition Process," Human Rights Watch demands that the Japanese government end its "regressive and harmful" law.
"Requiring a medical intervention as a condition of having their gender identity legally recognized violates Japan's human rights obligations and runs counter to international medical standards," the nongovernmental organization said on its website.
Under Japan's 2004 GID Act, transgender people wanting to legally change their gender must appeal to a family court and meet specific criteria, which includes being unwed, childless and under 20 years of age.
The applicant must also undergo a psychiatric evaluation and received a "gender identity disorder" diagnosis.
They must also be sterile, either by birth or by medical procedure.
"Japan should uphold the rights of transgender people and stop forcing them to undergo surgery to be legally recognized," said Japan director at Human Rights Watch Kane Doi in a statement. "The law is based on an outdated premise that treats gender identity as a so-called 'mental illness' and should be urgently revised."
The report argues that the law is based on the "outdated and pejorative notion" that being transgendered is a mental health condition in order to force them to "undergo lengthy, expensive, invasive and irreversible medical."
The World Health Organization removed gender incongruence, which is when an individual's gender does not align with one's sex, from mental disorders of its influential International Classifications of Diseases, Human Rights Watch noted in its report.
It also highlighted a recent Supreme Court ruling that effectively upheld the requirement of sterilization as constitutional while noting that it may not be reflective of society's push to embrace diversity.
The report was based on interviews with 48 transgendered people as well as lawyers, health providers and academics throughout Japan.
"The government needs to revise its laws to meet its international human rights obligations and international medical norms," Doi said.