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South Africa : Transgenders also bear the brunt of home affairs’red tape

The South African Home Affairs Department has once again been accused of unnecessary delays and red tape when transgender people, who have undergone gender reassignment, apply for change of gender in their identity documents, some having to wait for over 12 months while they are sent back and forth and in some cases told that their documents are lost and that they should reapply.

Avatar of Alessia Valenza

25th April 2011 13:24

Alessia Valenza

Tebogo Nkoana, a Cape Town based transman who has recently undergone full gender reassignment says it took two years, after his first application, to have gender changed in his identity document.

“I have had to reapply for more than three times because my documents kept getting lost at the Home Affairs department. It was the most horrible process I ever had to go through. Imagine a post transition man like me with a female ID, I was ashamed to use it, so I had to wait for two years to finally own my life again”, Nkoana said.

Nkoana states that he is relieved to have his gender finally changed in his ID. “Now I no longer have to go through the torture of explaining my gender identity to strangers at airports, to police officers and at banks and to bear the subsequent discrimination”, he said.

According to Robert Hamblin, another Cape Town based transman, changing gender on identity document takes between three and twelve months, “But sometimes you also have to change the name and at times Home Affairs will not allow you to change both at the same time, then it takes even longer”, Hamblin said.

Hamblin states that changing gender in the ID is technically easy, “but Home Affairs makes it hard with incompetence, prejudice and lack of understanding of how the law works”, he said.

He added, “This [changing gender identity in one’s ID] is the most important step for people to be able to live their lives to the fullest. Changing your body to the perfect state is important but it is not worth much when that body can not get a job because it does not have an ID.

Meanwhile the Department of Home Affairs states that delays are often caused by the lack of detailed information on the applicants’ medical reports.

Ronnie Mamoepa, Spokesperson for the Department of Home Affairs said, “The main challenge is that the reports which are required from the clients’ medical reports are not detailed enough to enable the Department to make prompt decisions in approving such applications.”

Mamoepa also stated that very few applications for change of gender in identity documents are received by the department and that these are not recorded by race, age or even geographical area.

Asked what are the requirements for trangender people to apply for change of gender in their identity documents Mamoepa said, “for transgender amendments, a DHA-9 application form with two photographs, a BI-526 Affidavit, a full report from the medical practitioner concerned, as well as a second report from a different medical practitioner and a certified copy of the client’s current identity document, are required.”

He also explained that the prescribed fee for transgender amendments is dependent on the nature of the amendments requested in addition to the gender change.

“The prescribed fee for the amendment of gender is R70 and should a change of forename be requested, the prescribed fee is R140. The prescribed fee of R140 for the normal re-issue of an identity document is also payable”, he said.

And what happens to the person’s old profile? “The person’s previous personal profile will be archived in the Department’s files and on the National Population Register. Confirmation letters are issued by the Department verifying the change of personal particulars.”

“However, accounts, debts and other related matters depend on the clients’ and their responsibilities, for which reason confirmation letters are issued. Details of such changes of personal particulars are also forwarded by the Department to Trans-Union to enable the new identity numbers to be linked with the previous identity numbers.” Mamoepa said.