Prosecutors are considering pressing charges against a transgender woman who used the women’s public restroom in Osaka, Japan.
According to Osaka Prefectural Police, a customer complained that a transgender woman in her 40s was using the women’s room at a commercial facility last May. The customer told employees that she couldn’t use the restroom out of “fear” because “a man wearing women’s clothes was using it” and the employees called the police.
On Thursday, the case was referred to prosecutors, who could charge the transgender woman with trespassing. Police say that the woman’s ID still has a male gender marker, which means that she was not legally allowed to use the women’s room.
The Osaka Prefectural Police is not seeking indictment in the case, leaving the decision of whether to pursue charges to prosecutors.
Most transgender people in Japan “pay attention when they use toilets at public facilities so they can stay out of trouble,” Mikiya Nakatsuka, president of the Japanese Society of Gender Identity Disorder and Okayama University professor of health sciences, told the Japan Times.
“I am worried that if this single case draws attention, it might lead to more prejudice and discrimination against them.”
Chukyo University professor Takashi Kazama said that restrooms shouldn’t be separated by gender.
“Gender identity is invisible, so people cannot help but judge from a person’s appearance on the appropriateness of the use of toilets separated by genders,” they said.
Correcting the gender marker on legal documents in Japan remains difficult. A 2003 law requires a person to be over 22-years-old, be unmarried, prove they have been sterilized, and not have children under the age of 20.
In 2019, the Supreme Court of Japan upheld that law, saying that the government had an interest in limiting societal “confusion” and “abrupt changes.”
Only 7000 transgender people in the country with a population of over 125 million had their gender legally recognized between 2003 and 2019.
The World Health Organization condemns the practice of forced sterilization and the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Torture has called it a human rights violation.