In a landmark judgment passed on Tuesday, the Supreme Court recognised transgenders as the third sex, allowing them equal access to education, healthcare and employment, and prohibiting discrimination against them. The move reflects a growing wave of recognition of the rights of transgenders internationally. According to a 2012 report by the Global Commission on HIV and the Law, 20 countries have recently passed progressive legislation on transgenders, including Argentina, Uruguay, and Portugal. Even social networking site Facebook recently announced plans to offer users 50 new gender options.
Amnesty International has suggested that European countries have some catching up to do when it comes to establishing a legal framework to protect and recognise the rights of transgender people. According to an Amnesty report, in 24 countries, trans people must undergo sterilisation before their gender identity is recognised. In 19 countries, you must be single to change your gender identity. In 16 countries, there is no procedure for people to change their gender on official documents. The Amnesty report highlights how procedures to obtain legal gender recognition violate fundamental human rights in Denmark, Finland, France, Norway and Belgium. Amnesty estimates that there are as many as 1.5 million transgender people in the European Union.
On November 7, 2013, the Senate passed legislation extending workplace protections to the LGBT community. Last year, California Governor Jerry Brown signed the Transgender Bathroom Bill, affirming the rights of transgender students to use facilities and play on sports teams that align with their gender identity. The law was met with stiff opposition who have said that it neglects the privacy rights of most students for the benefit of a few. Federal data estimates that there are 7,00,000 trans people in the country.
On April 2, Australia ruled that people are not unambiguously male or female, allowing a third gender under the law. The ruling was a landmark decision and a victory for main plaintiff Norrie, who had fought for the third gender designation for years.
The Dutch Senate on December 17, 2013, overwhelmingly approved a Bill that would allow transgender people to legally change their gender on their birth certificates and other official documents without undergoing sterilisation and sex-reassignment surgery. The new law will go into force from July 1, 2014.
Last year, Germany became the first European country to recognise a third gender, allowing parents of newborns to mark “male”, “female” or “indeterminate” on birth certificates. Parents of intersex children — those born with both genitals – can mark their birth certificates with an “X”.
Touted as the most progressive gender recognition law in the world, Argentina enacted the Gender Identity and Health Comprehensive Care for Trans People Act in May 2012. The law creates an official administrative procedure whereby any adult, or any minor with the support of guardians, may apply to change their sex listed in the civil registry. Neither judicial approval nor proof of specific psychological or medical treatments is required. The law even made sex change surgery a legal right. In 2010, Argentina also recognised the right of marriage to same-sex couples.
Following a Supreme Court landmark decision ruling against gender identity discrimination in 2007, Nepal included a third gender option on its Census forms, which it initiated in 2011. It also introduced a third gender category on its passports last year.
On April 14, Malta became the first European state to include gender identity in its constitution. Parliament also voted in favour of civil unions, giving same-sex and different-sex couples nearly the same rights as married couples. Parliamentarians also strengthened the anti-discrimination law to better protect transgender persons against discrimination. A proposal for gender recognition procedures is currently under preparation, which, according to Maltese activists, will be modelled after the Argentinean Gender Identity Act.