Japan’s Supreme Court has declared in a landmark ruling that the restrictions imposed by a government ministry on a transgender female employee’s use of restrooms at her workplace are illegal.
Landmark decision: In a unanimous verdict on Tuesday, the judges deemed the Economy and Trade Ministry’s limitations on restroom use for the transgender official as “extremely inappropriate.”
The unnamed ministry employee
, who is reportedly in her 50s, filed a suit in 2015 after she was banned by her government office from using the women’s restrooms on their floor. The ministry purportedly forced her to choose between using a men’s restroom nearby or a women’s restroom located at least two floors away from her workplace.
Prioritizing co-workers: In its defense, the ministry justified the restriction as a means to prevent potential embarrassment among the plaintiff’s co-workers.
Considering that there had been no prior incidents or complaints, the court ruled that the ministry had prioritized the concerns of other employees while neglecting the inconvenience faced by the plaintiff.
Following the decision, Chief Cabinet Secretary Hirokazu Matsuno stated that the government is committed to building a society where diversity is respected and everyone’s human rights and dignity are valued.
The Supreme Court’s ruling, which reverses
a previous ruling by the Tokyo High Court, comes amid continued discussions over LGBTQ+ rights in the country.
In June, the Japanese Parliament passed a bill promoting a better understanding of sexual minorities following a heated debate over subtle changes in how the legislation was phrased. Additionally, in recent months, a few courts have deemed that banning same-sex marriage is unconstitutional.
Transgender individuals in Japan are still required to undergo surgery to remove their reproductive organs to change their gender on official documents.
Win for the community: The plaintiff celebrated the victory as a positive development for the LGBTQ+ community in Japan, where same-sex marriage has yet to be legalized.
“All people should have the right to live their lives in a society based on their own sexual identities,” the employee was quoted as saying. “The significance of that should not be reduced to the usage of toilets or public baths.”
Emphasizing the need to promote tolerance, Toshimasa Yamashita, the plaintiff’s lawyer, said: “The government now must deal with the workplace environment more appropriately to protect the rights of minorities.”