Germany could become the first European country to allow a third gender on the birth registry.
According to Germany’s Federal Constitutional Court, intersex people, who are neither male nor female, should be able to register their sexual identity as such.
“The new government must take immediate action to ensure that the Federal Constitutional Court’s requirements are implemented,” said Federal Minister of Family Affairs Katarina Barley. “I expressly plead for a comprehensive reform of the law for trans- and intersexuals in accordance with the Council of Europe’s guidelines.”
As reported by Deutsche Welle (DW), Germany’s international broadcaster, the court found that the general right to the protection of personality in Germany’s Basic Law meant the register had to be altered to allow a third gender.
On November 8, the court ruled seven to one that lawmakers must create new legislation by the end of 2018 to allow for a third sex, providing the examples of “intersex”, “diverse” or another “positive designation of sex”.
Another possibility raised by the Karlsruhe court was to scrap gender entries altogether.
“Assignment to a gender is of paramount importance for individual identity; it typically plays a key role both in the self-image of a person and in the way in which the person concerned is perceived by others. The gender identity of those persons who are neither male nor female is protected,” the court ruled.
An estimated 80,000 people in Germany identify as intersex, meaning they don’t display the gender traits of people generally described as male or female.
While some intersex people have both testicles and ovaries, others do not produce the hormones that determine the common binary gender characteristics.
In related news, the BBC noted that the activist group Third Option – which has been campaigning for official recognition – said on Twitter that it was “completely overwhelmed and speechless”.
Up to now, German law has made it possible (since 2013) to leave the gender box blank on the birth certificate for people born with characteristics of both males and females. Before that, if there was any doubt, officials would enter either male or female.