LONDON, May 25 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - Belgium won
praise on Thursday for banning the forced sterilisation of
people who wish to change their legal gender but campaigners
said the law still fell short of fully recognising the rights of
Previously, transgender people in Belgium had to undergo
sterilisation and a mental health diagnosis in order for their
preferred gender to be recognised legally.
The practice of involuntary sterilisation has been widely
condemned as a human rights violation, including by the United
Nations and the European Court of Human Rights.
Although the law change was hailed as a victory, campaigners
for transgender rights criticised a still lengthy and
inaccessible procedure and the lack of access to independent
legal gender recognition for minors.
"Several of the concerns expressed by the trans community
and civil society groups were not taken into account by the
Belgian authorities," Evelyne Paradis, director of the
International Lesbian, Gay, Trans and Intersex Association said
in a statement.
"That is a bit of a missed opportunity - especially when
other European countries have gone even further and have adopted
laws that permit legal gender recognition in a completely
demedicalised procedure, based on self-determination, and open
to all regardless of age," she added.
With the new legislation, children aged 12 and older will be
allowed to change their first name but will have to wait until
they turn 16 to change their legal gender.
Between 16 and 18, transgender people will be allowed to
apply for legal recognition but will require parental
authorisation and the approval of a psychiatrist.
Once they apply for the legal gender change transgender
people in Belgium will have to wait for three months before
confirming they are aware of the legal consequences of it.
"The waiting period prolongs the procedure unnecessarily,"
Julia Ehrt, director of Transgender Europe, said in a statement.
"This shows a lack of understanding and a mistrust of trans
people, who are the ones often suffering from accused identity
fraud when documents and gender expression do not match," she
Applicants can only have their gender recognised once,
unless they show "exceptional circumstances" through a court
Many European countries, such as Finland, Switzerland and
Greece, still require transgender people who want to legally
change their gender to undergo sterilisation, according to
advocacy group Transgender Europe.
But countries such as Malta and Norway have passed
legislation which allows full self-determination, campaigners
Norway last year passed a law which allows transgender
people to have their gender recognised without parental consent
from 16. Children from 6 to 16 can have their gender recognised
with the permission of one or both parents. [here
In Europe, transgender people are twice as likely as gay
people to be attacked, threatened or insulted, according to a
European Union report published in December 2014.
(Reporting by Anna Pujol-Mazzini @annapmzn, Editing by Astrid
Zweynert @azweynert. Please credit the Thomson Reuters
Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters that covers
humanitarian news, women's rights, trafficking, property rights,
climate change and resilience. Visit news.trust.org)