Tokyo - A transsexual man, who was born a woman, has been recognised by Japan's top court as the legal father of his wife's child, in a national first.
The Supreme Court overturned earlier decisions that had rejected the man's bid to be registered as one of the child's parents, and said the fact that a third person's sperm was used in his wife's IVF treatment was not legally material.
The decision opens the door for other transsexuals to gain recognition as fathers, despite their having no biological role in the conception and birth of the child.
In their ruling on Tuesday, the judges said they had to take into account a 2004 law that allowed those diagnosed with gender identify disorder to get their gender changed in legal documents if they fulfilled certain conditions, including undergoing a sex-change operation.
“A person recognised as a man, and allowed to change gender to that of a man under this law should be considered to be a man under other laws,” the ruling said.
“He not only can marry and become a husband under the civil law but should also be recognised as the father of a child conceived by his wife during their marriage.”
The judgment will mean the current practice at local city offices, where the child of a married couple with a transsexual father is registered as illegitimate, will have to be changed.
“I am very happy,” said the man, whose identity has been withheld.
“I can finally become the father of my son in legal documents. We won at the final stage, thanks to the help and support of many others.”
Three out of the five justices agreed with the decision, while two opposed it.
Japan maintains an official family registry, which keeps a detailed record of its nationals' personal information, such as birth, residence, marital status, offspring and death.
The registry is based on the unit of a legally married couple and their family, a system that campaigners say badly disadvantages sexual minorities and children born out of wedlock.
This week's ruling follows a September judgement by the supreme court that said a child born outside wedlock should be as entitled to an inheritance as his or her legitimate siblings.