Japan’s Supreme Court unanimously ruled today that a woman who changed her legal gender from male to female will be legally recognized as the father of her daughter born after the gender change. This case is unprecedented in Japan as it marks the first time the Supreme Court has ruled on the legal parent-child relationship involving a biological father who has had a child after changing their legal gender.

Case Background

In 2018, a woman in her 40s, still legally male at the time, used her frozen sperm to have a daughter with her female partner. After legally changing her gender to female later that year, the couple had a second daughter in 2020 using the same frozen sperm. The woman submitted a recognition form to the municipality to be acknowledged as the father of both daughters, but the form was not accepted. After this, her two daughters filed a lawsuit seeking to have her recognized as their father.

Court Proceedings

  1. Tokyo Family Court (February 2022): The Tokyo Family Court dismissed the claim, stating that recognizing a legally female person as the father did not align with current laws.
  2. Tokyo High Court (August 2022): The Tokyo High Court overturned the Family Court’s decision for the first daughter, recognizing the woman as the father of the first daughter because she was still legally male at the time of birth. However, it did not recognize her as the father of the second daughter, who was born after her legal gender change.

The younger daughter appealed this decision to the Supreme Court.

Supreme Court Ruling

The Supreme Court’s Second Petty Bench, led by Justice Akira Ojima, ruled unanimously to recognize the parent-child relationship for the second daughter on June 21, 2024. This ruling is unprecedented in Japan, affirming that a parent-child relationship remains legally valid even after a gender change.

The court emphasized that denying the legal recognition of a biological father who has transitioned to female would deprive the child of essential rights such as inheritance rights, child support, access to benefits, succession rights, estate claims and more. “The existence of a parent-child relationship deeply affects the welfare of the child,” the court stated. “It is clear that [not recognizing this parental relationship] is against the welfare and best interests of the child.”

This landmark ruling by the Supreme Court marks a significant step forward in the legal recognition of gender identity and family law. 

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