ILGA World releases global research into legal gender recognition and criminalisation

Graham Robson September 30, 2020

The International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association (ILGA World), a worldwide federation of more than 1,600 organisations from over 160 countries and territories campaigning for lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans and intersex human rights, has released its latest Trans Legal Mapping Report, detailing the impact of laws and policies on trans persons in 143 UN member States across the globe.

The third edition of the publication researches provisions which set out how trans and gender-diverse people can change their sex/gender marker and names on official identity documents (legal gender recognition), and also collects information on laws¬†criminalising¬†trans identities, both explicitly and¬†de facto¬†‚Äď looking at the situation for our communities in every region of the world.

Zhan Chiam, coordinator and co-author of the report, said: “To date, at least 13 UN member States worldwide explicitly criminalise trans persons, but we know that a much wider range of laws is used to target them in many more countries.

‚ÄúEvidence collected from communities on the ground highlights how measures related to public nuisance, indecency, morality, loitering, sex work-related offences, and consensual same-sex activity amongst others are actively deployed for the same purpose. The systemic targeting of trans people using seemingly innocuous laws is just as damaging as so-called ‚Äėcross dressing‚Äô regulations which overtly target gender expressions.‚ÄĚ

While states with explicit criminalising provisions deny trans persons of their right to be who they are, other states have made strides toward legal gender recognition based solely on self-determination.

Since 2018, nine additional UN member states (or jurisdictions within them) have allowed people to change their name and gender marker in official registries and documents without abusive preconditions such as undergoing surgical, hormonal or sterilisation interventions, forcibly divorcing from their partner, not having dependent children, being kept in psychiatric facilities, passing a ‘real life test’, and more.

In Europe, Belgium, France, Greece, Luxembourg and Portugal now have non-medical, non-pathologising laws on gender marker change.

In Latin America,¬†Brazil,¬†Chile¬†and¬†Costa Rica¬†have allowed gender marker changes through a self-determination model. At the same time,¬†Chile,¬†Colombia¬†and¬†Uruguay¬†have advanced with respect to those under 18, and Argentina¬†allows for a multiplicity of gender markers. In some jurisdictions across the world ‚ÄstAustralia¬†(the state of Victoria),¬†Costa Rica¬†and most of¬†Canada¬†‚Äď there is now the option to remove gender markers altogether.

Pakistan now allows gender marker change without prohibitive requirements, while Canada introduced non-binary markers in ten out of 13 provinces and territories. In recent years, Botswana and South Africa also had court wins in recognising trans person’s gender identities in legal documents and in the prison system respectively.

According to Chiam, these advances have come with¬†considerable backlash. ‚ÄúIn every region of the world where we have been documenting legal gender recognition, regressions have occurred, often in the form of so-called ‚Äėgender ideology‚Äô, the emergence of exclusionary movements, and right-wing politicians positing LGBTQ+ against national identities.‚ÄĚ

Jabulani Pereira, chair of the Trans Committee at ILGA World, added: “It is a difficult time for trans persons globally, which is reflected in the regression or stagnation in legal gender recognition rights in every continent.

‚ÄúWe continue to push against repressive state laws, and at the same time we will need many more studies that celebrate our challenges and gains in our right to self-determination, our right to gender-affirming care and to live in a world that does not systemically and physically harm us.‚ÄĚ

To see the latest Trans Legal Mapping Report, CLICK HERE