Archive for the ‘legal recognition’ Category
I wrote last month about the decision by the conservative Christian Democrat party government (along with the nationalist Sweden Democrat party) to retain a 1972 gender recognition law under which TS/TG and gender variant people who want to change their legal gender are required to be sterilised. The requirement was a violation of the European Convention on Human Rights, which is enacted as law in Sweden.
There was an international outcry at the loss of the opportunity to bring the legislation up to date: in Sweden, the law is only reviewed every forty years. Advocacy groups and activists from around the world protested the decision and an online petition to the Swedish Prime Minister received over 77,000 signatures.
Now, via Ulrika Westerlund, President of RFSL (the Swedish Federation for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Rights), I learn that the campaign appears to have been successful, with the conservative party which was blocking the reform to remove the criteria apparently having changed its mind.
According to a statement in Debatt:
Everyone is equal here. From the Christian Democrats’ side, we have been clear that the issue of sterilization at sex change – as well as other issues related to children – requires careful thought and analysis. Many transsexuals are met with hatred and fear, in violation of the principle of equal worth of all – the hallmark of Christian tradition of ideas and thus the Christian Democrats. Therefore, it is our opinion that the requirements for sterilization at sex change should be abolished, writes Christian Democratic party leadership.
This is very good news indeed for TS/TG and gender variant people in Sweden who wish to change their legal gender, although the underlying issue (linking people’s legal identity to their medical status) remains unexamined.
As a footnote, it should also be remembered that Sweden isn’t the only member state of the European Union requiring TS/TG and gender variant people to undergo surgery before they can change their legal identity. Published work by the TGEU’s TVT Project suggests at least eight other countries – Denmark, France, Ireland, Italy, Netherlands, Poland, Slovakia, Spain – where legal change of gender is contingent upon GRS/sterilisation or Gender Reassignment Therapy and we can only hope that these countries will follow Sweden’s example. (Note: the TVT Project’s list is not definitive and is subject to ongoing research and updates).
Now online: first mapping of legal and health care situation of trans people in 58 countries
The legal and health mapping was conducted by Transgender Europe’s Transrespect versus Transphobia Worldwide (TvT) research project in close cooperation with activists and experts from all world regions. A comprehensive questionnaire developed by the TvT project’s research team and reviewed by more than 15 researchers and activists from all six worlds regions was distributed to over 70 international activists and experts, who provided detailed information including comments and explanations on the specific situation in the respective country.
The mapping consists of different tables on:
1. Legal Gender Recognition: Change of Name & Change of Gender
The TvT tables provide detailed information on legal measures meant to guarantee a legal change of name and a legal change of gender for trans people. They list requirements such as ‘psychiatric diagnosis’, ‘gender reassignment surgery’ or ‘sterilization’. Unfortunately, the mapping shows that in all listed countries in which a legal change of gender is possible, a ‘psychiatric diagnosis’, i.e. a pathologization of the applying trans person, is required for a legal change of gender. Furthermore, most legal measures list ‘gender reassignment surgery’ or ‘sterilization’ as requirements for legal gender recognition, which clearly violates human rights.
The TvT tables also show the actual legal situation, meaning how legal change of name and gender are enacted in practice in the mapped countries. In some countries with existing legal measures, trans people’s applications are delayed for months and years, whereas in some countries without existing legal measures, trans people find other ways, for instance of legally changing their name. The TvT mapping moreover lists existing proposals regarding the legal change of name and gender in detail. This may serve both as an evaluation of the existing legal measures and situation and as an indicator of existing trans activism.
2. Anti-Discrimination, Hate Crime, and Asylum Legislation
The TvT tables provide detailed information regarding the inclusion of trans identity/gender identity in Anti-Discrimination and Hate Crime laws and in the Constitution. They also list the inclusion of trans people in Asylum guidelines. The mapping indicates that ‘gender identity’ is very rarely acknowledged as a ground of discrimination.
It also shows the legal situation, meaning the actual practices regarding these legal measures and guidelines, as well as proposals that challenge existing measures. These proposals very often demand the explicit inclusion of ‘gender identity’ into existing legal measures.
3. Criminalization, Prosecution, and State-sponsored Discrimination
The TvT tables show detailed information on the legal measures that criminalize trans people and trans related issues, such as ‘so-called cross-dressing’ and ‘gender reassignment surgery’. In some countries in the Global South and East these laws were introduced by colonial powers and missionaries and are not acted upon today. For instance, in some countries where ‘so-called cross-dressing’ is illegal, trans people are extremely visible and acknowledged within their culture and society rather than being prosecuted. There are, however, other countries where there is no criminalization, yet trans people are prosecuted with other laws that are used specifically against trans people, such as anti-prostitution, loitering or nuisance laws. The TvT tables are designed in a way to clearly show these important differences between legal criminalization and actual prosecution of trans people. They thus aim to provide a comprehensive understanding of the legal situation beyond the mere existence of legal measures.
4. Trans-Specific Health Care: Hormone Therapy and Hormones & Gender Reassignment Treatment and Body Modifications
The TvT research has addressed not only the legal situation of trans people but also important aspects of trans people’s social situation. The TvT tables give a first insight into trans people’s health care situation, focusing on trans-specific hormone therapy and hormones as well as gender reassignment treatments and body modifications. The TvT tables show manifold aspects regarding medically supervised hormone therapy and gender reassignment treatments, including requirements like ‘psychiatric diagnosis’ and the availability of funding.
The tables moreover list the existence of alternative practices, such as acquiring hormones on the black market without medical supervision or applying industrial silicone without medical supervision. These ‘alternatives’ exist in countries where trans-specific health-care is not provided as well as in cases where trans people do not meet the requirements for medically supervised treatment. They can lead to serious health problems and in some cases even to death.
A characteristic of Transgender Europe’s legal and health mapping is thus that it enables a quick overview of existing laws while at the same time providing detail and complexity regarding actual practices.
At present, 58 countries are listed in the following regions: Africa (9 countries), Asia (13 countries), Central and South America (9 countries), Europe (18 countries), and Oceania (9 countries). For India, a separate set of tables showing the situation in individual states is provided. Further countries will be added in due time, including a separate set of tables for the 8 Australian states and Brazil. The TvT mapping is designed such that it enables a regular update and extension of the tables. Therefore, any information and evaluation of the presented tables is highly welcomed and will be analysed and included in regular updates. In the course of 2012, we will step by step present more elaborated information, including context information, references, law texts, etc. in selected country sections of the TvT website. In these sections, the numerous activists and researchers that contributed to the TvT mapping will be fully acknowlegded.
Transgender Europe’s legal and health mapping can be accessed on the TvT project website at:
New research: In November 2011, the TvT research team together with six partner organizations from Asia, Eastern Europe, Oceania, and South America started a new survey in form of a peer research on trans people’s experiences with Transrespect and Transphobia.
The TvT project is funded by the Open Society Foundations, the ARCUS Foundation, and partly by the Heinrich Boell Foundation.
If you have further questions or if you want to support the research project, please contact the TvT research team:
Dr Carsten Balzer and Dr Jan Simon Hutta
or check our website:
Cross-posted at Bird of Paradox
Press release from Masen Davis, Executive Director at the Transgender Law Center:
WE DID IT!
Governor Brown just signed two important transgender rights bills into law. The first, the Gender Nondiscrimination Act, brings transgender rights out of the closet in California – making “gender identity and expression” its own protected category at work, at school, in housing, at public accommodations and in other settings. The second, the Vital Statistics Modernization Act, makes it easier for transgender people to get a court-ordered gender change and updated birth certificate. It’s a big day for transgender folks in California!
We are holding a special briefing MONDAY October 10th, at 6:00 PM to update everyone on the impact of these bills. Click here to RSVP.
*We will be holding a separate Spanish language briefing later this week. For more information on this call, click here e-mail Maceo Persson.
These laws have been years in the making. Through our statewide survey of almost 650 transgender Californians, the 1,200 calls that our legal team receives annually and our conversations with you at events around the state, we discovered two problems that continued to resurface:
- We found that California’s nondiscrimination laws were often not accessible to those who needed them the most. Employers, health care providers, housing authorities – even transgender and gender non-conforming people – were unaware that it is illegal to discriminate against transgender Californians. Our legal rights were hidden within the definition of “gender”, leaving many people in the dark about their rights, and many institutions out of compliance responsibilities. This had an especially severe impact on low-income and trans communities of color who tend to face employment discrimination at higher frequencies within transgender communities.
- We heard from many transgender people who were unable to change their birth certificates and other identity documents due to financial and medical barriers. Onerous and outdated standards for court-ordered gender changes created unfair and damaging barriers that disproportionately impacted trans people of color, immigrant trans people, low-income trans people and others who could not overcome the many hurdles to securing basic identity documents. These are identity documents we all need to work, travel, and be our authentic selves.
With the help of your input and our partners at Equality California and GSA Network, we came up with two legislative solutions to these problems.
- The Gender Nondiscrimination Act (AB 887) takes existing protections based on gender and spells out “gender identity and expression” as their own protected categories in our nondiscrimination laws. By making these protections explicit, people will more clearly understand California’s nondiscrimination laws, which should increase the likelihood that employers, schools, housing authorities, and other institutions will work to prevent discrimination and/or respond more quickly at the first indications of discrimination.
- The Vital Statistics Modernization Act (AB 433) will alleviate the confusion, anxiety and even danger that transgender people face when we have identity documents that do not reflect who we are. The bill will streamline current law and clarify that eligible petitioners living or born in California can submit gender change petitions in the State of California. The Vital Statistics Modernization Act conforms California’s standards to the standards set by the United States Department of State for gender changes on passports, and it makes common-sense changes to the law that ensure the process is simple for qualified petitioners to navigate.
Today these bills have become law, and this huge victory belongs to you! This legislative session, hundreds of transgender, gender non-conforming and ally Californians took action — educating lawmakers, reaching out to the governor and sharing their stories with the media.
Our victory is a testament that California is at its best when we work together to realize the ideal that everyone should be treated fairly and equally. The barriers that transgender people face are life threatening and we applaud Governor Brown, Assemblymember Atkins and Assemblymember Lowenthal for their tremendous leadership to remove some of the obstacles that prevent transgender Californians from living as our authentic selves.
For a few years, we’ve been following the fight of two trans men in Western Australiato have their sex documents changed without GRS. This has been an important test case in Western Australia for trans rights and could potentially change the grounds of legal sex recognition in WA.
Now the case is headed to the High Court, and despite the pro-bono lawyers, significant costs are being incurred. As a result, the two are looking to fundraise here.
A message from AH & AB
We’ve been involved in a legal challenge to interpretation of Gender Reassignment Laws in Australia that’s dragged on for a couple of years now. Fortunately, our lawyers have kindly been acting pro-bono, but now that we’re headed to the High Court, we’re starting to incur some costs – $4200 to be exact.
Whilst we’re certainly willing and mostly able to dip into our own pockets to cover these costs, it’s a bit of a financial strain. So, any assistance to help us offset some of the cost, even just a thousand dollars or so, would be gratefully received and so very helpful.
A couple of months ago I reported on the Irish Government’s decision to drop its challenge to a High Court declaration that Irish law on transgender rights is in breach of the European Convention on Human Rights.
The challenge had originally been brought as long ago as 1997 by Dr Lydia Foy and in June 2010 she finally won her battle for legal recognition as a woman, and for a birth certificate that reflects that reality.
Now the Commissioner for Human Rights of the Council of Europe, Thomas Hammarberg, has published a Human Rights comment on the final settlement of the case in Ireland, welcoming the decision of the Irish Government to introduce legislation recognising transgender persons in their preferred gender, including the provision of new birth certificates
Commissioner Hammarberg goes on to highlight issues of concern for many transgender people in Europe, such as the need to be diagnosed with an mental disorder, or being forced to be steriliszed and divorced in order to obtain official recognition of their legal status.
Ireland is not the only country where transgender persons have faced obstacles in obtaining legal recognition of their preferred gender. Some Council of Europe member states still have no provision at all for official recognition, leaving transgender people in a legal limbo. Most member states still use medical classifications which impose the diagnosis of mental disorder on transgender persons.
Even more common are provisions which demand impossible choices, such as the “forced divorce” and the “forced sterilisation” requirements. This means that only unmarried or divorced transgender persons who have undergone surgery and become irreversibly infertile have the right to change their entry in the birth register. In reality, this means that the state prescribes medical treatment for legal purposes, a requirement which clearly runs against the principles of human rights and human dignity.
All countries need to develop expeditious and transparent procedures for changing the name and gender of a transgender person on official documents, in accordance with the case-law of the European Court of Human Rights.
The full text of Commissioner Hammarberg’s comment may be found at this link
Curtsey to Richard at TGEU for the heads-up.