The Supreme Court of Japan has upheld a law that effectively requires transgender people to be sterilised before they can have their gender changed on official documents. The 2004 law says that transgender people who want to have their gender changed must have their original reproductive organs removed, and their body must appear “to have parts that resemble the genital organs” of the gender they wish to choose, AP reported on Friday.

The four-judge panel took a unanimous decision on Thursday to uphold the law, rejecting a plea by Takakito Usui, a transgender man who argued that forced sterilisation is unconstitutional and violates his right to self-determination.

But Usui’s lawyer, Tomoyasu Oyama said Justice Mamoru Miura, who presided over the bench, said “doubts are undeniably emerging” about the law. Miura and another judge proposed that the government periodically review the law “from the viewpoint of respect for personality and individuality”. They also asked society to “embrace the diversity of sexual identity”, CNN reported.

“It is unthinkable in this day and time that the law requires a sex-change operation to change gender,” Oyama told the news network. “When the law was established 15 years ago, LGBT people had to make a bitter decision and swallow the conditions to pave a narrow way for official change of gender. With this decision, I hope lawmakers will change the law to support the wishes of the LGBT community.”

Amnesty International condemns verdict

Suki Chung, Asia Pacific campaign manager at non-governmental organisation Amnesty International, described the judgement as “a blow for the recognition of transgender people in Japan”. “Forcing people to undertake medical treatment in order to obtain legal gender recognition violates their right to the highest attainable standard of health,” she told CNN. “We urge the Japanese government to end this discriminatory and highly intrusive policy.”