Berlin, Germany : The German government on Wednesday approved a draft law allowing a third gender option on birth certificates for babies who are not distinctly male or female. The bill allows people to be registered as “diverse” in official records.
The move would add a third gender option to official identity records and allow people who identify as intersex to have their gender be changed from “female” or “male” to “diverse” on records by the end of the year.
The only option for those in a similar situation was to register without gender classification, until now.
In a move described by the justice minister as “long overdue”, Chancellor Angela Merkel’s left-right coalition passed a bill permitting children born intersex to be registered as “various”.
The move comes following a court case in which a plaintiff sought unsuccessfully to have their entry in the birth register changed from “female” to “inter diverse” or “diverse”.
They provided courts with a genetic analysis showing one X chromosome but no second sex chromosome. Women have two X chromosomes, while men have one X and one Y chromosome.
Germany’s top tribunal ruled last November that current regulations on civil status are discriminatory against intersex people, noting that the sexual identity of an individual is protected as a basic right.
Germany has since 2013 allowed babies born with characteristics of both sexes to leave the gender options of male and female blank.
The Federal Constitutional Court gave parliament until the end of 2018 to amend the current legislation.
The decision was in favour of an appeal brought by an intersex adult and said that courts and state authorities should no longer compel intersex people to choose between identifying as male or female.
Intersex is a broad term encompassing people who have sex traits, such as genitals or chromosomes, that do not entirely fit with a typical binary notion of male and female.
Justice Minister Katarina Barley, whose office drafted the bill, said the legislation marked a big step forward by requiring a new gender option from birth.
“No one should be discriminated against on the basis of their sexual identity,” she said, adding that the new category would give intersex people a greater sense of “dignity and positive identity”.
The law also prohibited surgical procedures on intersex babies so they can themselves choose their gender later in life.
The Cabinet’s decision to add the third gender option now requires approval from the German federal parliament.
Franziska Giffey, the federal minister for family affairs in Germany, told the news service the decision is “an important step toward the legal recognition of people whose gender identity is neither male nor female.”
The move comes months after California became the first state to pass legislation that allows state residents to choose a gender option other than male or female on official documents.
According to the United Nations, between 0.05 and 1.7 per cent of the global population is intersex – about the same percentage that have red hair.
Sometimes this is apparent at birth, at other times it becomes noticeable in puberty.
Family Affairs Minister Franziska Giffey said the next step in Germany would be updating the legal standing of transsexual people, including barring any required medical examinations to determine a person’s biological sex.
Portugal last month joined Denmark, Ireland, Malta, Norway and Sweden to become the sixth European country to grant the right to self-determination of transgender identity.
Earlier this year Canada announced that it would recognise third gender options. Canadians are able to self-identify on government surveys and forms.
While Taiwan is planning to allow a third gender on household registration and national ID cards.
Taiwanese passport holders will also be able to include a non-specified gender on their passport too.