The term “legal gender recognition” defines laws, administrative procedures, or processes by which a person can change their legal sex/gender marker and name on official identity documents. In most countries, these processes include abusive requirements such as undergoing surgical, hormonal, or sterilisation interventions, forcibly divorcing from one’s partner, not having dependent children, being kept in psychiatric facilities, passing a “real-life test”, and more. A model for legal gender recognition based on self-determination, on the other hand, allows people to obtain identity documents that match their gender identity and expression without going through abusive requirements. This reduces the discrimination, harassment, and violence faced by trans people in various aspects of their lives. It also provides trans individuals access to healthcare, education, employment, housing, and other basic rights that may otherwise be denied to them due to their gender identity.
“Human rights are universal, inalienable and indivisible”, Argentina told the Human Rights Council on behalf of 28 States. “As such, each person’s self-defined gender identity is integral to their personality and a manifestation of self-identification, dignity and freedom. We strongly support all policies that combat violence and discrimination against all women, and we reiterate that these policies should be based on an intersectional approach, protecting women who are subjected to multiple forms of discrimination - including trans women.”
Countries called on other States to “implement laws and policies that allow the recognition of gender identity based on self-identification”, and to “redouble efforts to prevent and respond to sexual and gender-based violence and discrimination, including against women in all their diversity.” They also pointed out how “many UN, as well as regional human rights mechanisms, have recognised that self-identification is fundamental to safeguarding one’s autonomy and dignity and that it is in line with international human rights standards on gender recognition.”
These words mark another milestone for the human rights movement. For years, civil society has worked to make sure that States could listen to the voices of people with diverse gender identities and expressions, and recognise the historic injustices that this population keeps facing every day.
Their tireless advocacy has prompted more States and human rights bodies to speak up. For years, UN human rights bodies have referenced gender identity and expression issues in their recommendations to States. In a historic first, in 2021, 27 States called on the United Nations Human Rights Council to urgently protect the human rights of trans people, especially trans women.
Civil society from across the world has also spoken today at the UN Human Rights Council: 65 organisations welcomed the recent initiatives by States.
“Self-determination is a corollary of the right to bodily autonomy and integrity, a right that has been long and hard fought for by feminist human rights defenders, lawyers, physicians and experts across the globe,” their statement read. “Without the full realisation of the right to bodily autonomy, the health, lives, human rights and well-being of all women and girls, including trans women, trans youth, and people of diverse sexual orientation, gender identity and expression, and sex characteristics, are on the line.”
“We call on the members of the Human Rights Council to keep advancing human rights norms for women and girls in all their diversity.”
The number of countries joining the statement may vary due to additional signatories. The current list is available here (under the chapter: Item 8: General debate on the follow-up to and implementation of the Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action, 15:00)