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Greece Should Do Better on Transgender Legal Recognition

While Bill is an Improvement, Abusive Tenants Remain

A protestor waves a rainbow flag during a gay protest outside the Greek parliament in Athens September 29, 2008. © 2008 Reuters

This week, Greece’s parliament will start debating proposed legislation to amend the country’s law on legal gender recognition – or the ability of transgender people to be legally recognized according to their gender identity. The bill includes a lot that represents an enormous improvement on the status quo, but also retains some fundamental flaws that members of parliament should remove before it progresses.

The legislation, if passed in its current form, would no longer require applicants to undergo medical procedures or tests in order to change their legal gender – a marked improvement. The majority of European countries still require medical tests, procedures, or certification for transgender people to be legally recognized – a humiliating and unnecessary violation of their privacy.

But alongside this progressive shift, the Greek bill also retains some profound and discriminatory flaws. These include a judicial process where a judge gets to decide if a person looks enough like their gender identity to be legally recognized, an age requirement of 17 that arbitrarily denies transgender children important affirmation of their identity, and a requirement that applicants must be single.

Countries around the world have changed their policies on legal gender to ones based on rights and a person’s self-identification, not the approval of any doctor, judge or other authority.

For example, Denmark and Argentina removed medical requirements altogether. In Malta, a law passed in 2015 – based on a case that originated in a case at the European Court of Human Rights – states that transgender people can legally self-declare their own gender without any medical assessments. It also provides specific guidelines for making transgender children safe and welcome in schools.

Blanketly denying transgender children the possibility of legal recognition in their preferred gender risks condemning them to stigmatization, exclusion, and discrimination during some of their most important formative years, including during their education.

If Greece’s justice minister and parliament want to make Greece amongst the leaders with respect to transgender legal recognition, they should make the necessary amendments to bring this legislation closer in line with Greece’s international and European human rights obligations and remove the bill’s fundamental flaws. 

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