When a baby is born with both female and male physical characteristics in Germany, its parents will no longer be legally obliged to choose one of the sexes. Germany will become the first country in Europe to join a small group of nations which recognise a third or “undetermined” sex when registering births.
From November , it will be officially allowed to assign the baby a “third gender” if the sex cannot be clearly identified at birth. The new law will apply to intersexuals, also known as hermaphrodites, rather than transexuals.
The new constitutional court decision states that as long as a person “deeply feels” that they belong to a certain gender, they have a personal right to choose how they legally identify themselves.
Justice Minister Sabine Leuthheusser-Schnarrenberger said the decision will have deep repercussions and will require “comprehensive reform” of all documents issued by the state. Adult passports currently require people to state their gender, partly to avoid potential problems when traveling abroad.
I am X
The ‘third gender’ establishment will also have an effect on marriage laws. As of now, only men and women are allowed to legally marry in the country. Homosexual couples can enter into a civil partnership, and no actions are made for unions between other genders.
Australians have allowed citizens to mark their gender on a passport as X since 2011 and New Zealand followed suit last year. Activists in both countries claim the legislation has helped curb discrimination against transsexuals and those of indeterminate tender.
Silvan Agius, policy director at human rights organisation ILGA Europe told Spiegel newspaper that the decision will push the rest of the EU to do the same. “Germany’s move will put more pressure on Brussels,” Agius said. “That can only be a good thing,” he concluded.