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Japanese Lawmakers Draft Bill to Protect Women in Female-Only Spaces

The bill aims to prevent biological males who have changed their legal gender from committing sexual crimes in female-only spaces like public baths and toilets.



Satsuki Katayama, the co-representative of the LDP parliamentary group that is proposing a bill stipulating that access to female-only spaces should depend on physical characteristics. LDP headquarters in Nagatacho, Tokyo. June 13. (©Kyodo)

A Japanese parliamentary league has drafted legislation concerning the use of female-only spaces, such as communal baths. The bill stipulates that access to female-only spaces should depend not on a person's "psychological gender" but on their "physical characteristics."

The league's name translated into English is "the parliamentary league for protecting the safety and security of all women and fairness in women's sports." It comprises voluntary members of the Liberal Democratic Party. 

This initiative aims to prevent biological males asserting a female gender identity from committing sexual crimes in female-only spaces. It anticipates situations where individuals may be legally recognized as female without undergoing gender confirmation surgery and while having male genitalia.

The bill imposes a "duty to endeavor" on facility managers to protect the safety of women in sex-separated facilities, including public baths and toilets. This includes implementing operational measures to increase security. For example, installing adequate lighting and alarm systems. 

Protecting the Vulnerable 

Satsuki Katayama, a former regional revitalization minister and co-representative of the parliamentary group, believes that the bill will enhance the safety of women and girls by imposing a greater duty of care on facility managers. 

However, some argue that denying transgender women access to female-only spaces would violate their rights.

After summarizing the bill on June 13, Katayama stated, "In preparation for social issues that could arise [if the requirement for surgery is removed], the answer we have arrived at is to base decisions on physical characteristics." 

Stressing that the bill is aimed at ensuring women's safety, she added, "The golden rule is to protect those who are weaker, who are victimized more often."

A gender-inclusive toilet in Hatagaya built by Shibuya Ward. Photo taken on August 4, 2023. (©Sankei by Akihiko Tozaki)

What the Law Would Say

The parliamentary group aims to finalize the wording while seeking endorsement from each party. It plans to submit the outline during the extraordinary Diet session in autumn 2024. The bill would provide a legal basis for facility managers to refuse access to female-only areas for individuals who are legally women and possess male genitalia.

Previously, Japan's health ministry issued a notice to "make judgments based on physical characteristics" regarding the use of public bathing facilities. If the bill is passed, this policy will be explicitly stated in law.

The primary reason behind the bill is to ensure the safety of women's spaces, especially as it becomes increasingly likely that individuals will be able to change their legal gender without undergoing gender confirmation surgery.

In October 2023, the Supreme Court ruled that a legal clause requiring people to remove their reproductive organs to change their legal gender was unconstitutional. The requirement for having "parts that resemble the genital organs of the opposite gender" is also under review for constitutional compliance in the second instance.

There have been confirmed incidents overseas where transgender women have sexually assaulted women in female-only spaces. Katayama explained, "Protecting women and managing their exclusive spaces has become a necessity of our times."

[Beyond the scope of this article, there are other factors in this debate that merit exploration, including the safety of transgender women in men-only spaces. Watch for future articles addressing these issues and potential approaches to securing respect and safe spaces for all concerned.]


(Read the article in Japanese.)

Author: Shimpei Okuhara, The Sankei Shimbun