Japanese Court Rules That It’s Illegal To Ban Trans People From Bathrooms

The ruling is the first of its kind in Japan.

A new court ruling in Japan requires all employers to allow trans people to use the bathroom of their choice, without having to notify anyone of their gender identity.

A trans woman who works for the Economy, Trade and Industry Ministry in Japan sued her employer after they forbid her from using the women’s restroom at work. A Ministry official told the trans woman that she should “go back” to being a man if she wasn’t planning on having reassignment surgery.

A Tokyo district court ruled that it’s illegal for the Ministry, or any other employer, to ban trans employees from using the bathroom that aligns with their gender identity. Moreover, it’s illegal for employers to require surgery from trans employees in order to recognize their gender.

District Judge Kenji Ebara said it’s illegal to restrict trans bathroom use because it “constrains people’s benefits of living their lives in accordance with their self-identified genders.” Ebara found the Ministry’s comments to the trans woman “unacceptable” and “extremely lacking in validity,” and said it was an “abuse of discretion” to make the employee identify her gender while sharing the bathroom with others.

The ruling is groundbreaking, especially in light of the state of trans rights in Japan, The Telegraph reports. Gender reassignment surgery is the only way to change one’s legal gender in Japan. Additionally, trans people are required to be sterilized before gender reassignment, as the Supreme Court ruled earlier this year. They must also be unmarried and have no children under 20.

The woman was awarded ¥1.32 million in damages, or nearly $12,000.

Meanwhile, the bathroom debate remains a major hurdle for trans people in the U.S. Several states and cities have attempted to make it illegal for trans people to use their chosen bathroom. Some of those cases made it to Supreme Court earlier this year.

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