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Mapping transgender rights to counter global discrimination

Source: Thomson Reuters Foundation - Mon, 21 Nov 2011 01:28 PM
Author: Sebastian Rocca and Anna Kirey
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Any views expressed in this article are those of the author and not of Thomson Reuters Foundation.

Sebastian Rocca is executive director of human rights organisation ILGA; Anna Kirey is consultant of ILGA's Trans legal rights project

By Sebastian Rocca and Anna Kirey

The 13th International Transgender Day of Remembrance, held on Sunday, was a recurrence raising public awareness of hate crimes against trans people which far too often result in deaths.

According to the recent data published by the Trans Murder Monitoring Project (a project of Transgender Europe and Liminalis), over 200 trans people have been killed in the last 12 months worldwide. This is of course only the tip of the iceberg as many murders go unreported and many countries do not collect such data systematically.

In addition to struggling to end physical violence against trans people, many trans organisations worldwide, including ILGA Trans Secretariat, are demanding the removal of the 'Gender Dysphoria/Gender Identity Disorder' categories from the psychiatric disorders section of the eleventh edition of the World Health Organization's International Classification of Diseases (ICD) manual and, on the other hand, the guarantee of healthcare rights for trans people.

In many countries in the world it is still impossible to change gender marker or name at all, and in some places it is only possible at the local level but it is not reflected in the national legislation. Even more disturbing is the fact that in various countries around the world irreversible surgeries and/or sterilisations are required to change gender marker or name in official documents, which is a very serious human rights violation.

Against this scenario of persecution and discrimination, some timid progress is being made. In 2011 the European parliament decided to include persecution on the basis of gender identity in its European Asylum Directive, more recently the High Court in Australia ruled that gender reassignment does not require the removal of reproductive organs. And a statement was signed by 85 countries at the U.N. Human Rights Council condemning persecution on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity, which was supported for the first time by countries from all regions, including several African and Asian countries, and most Latin American countries.

In addition, many trans and LGBTI (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex) organisations worldwide are constantly undertaking lobbying and advocacy activities for the equality of trans people worldwide.

The International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association (ILGA) is one of those human rights organisations which is fully committed to trans rights. In 2011 ILGA and its Trans Secretariat, with the support of TrustLaw, a service of the Thomson Reuters Foundation, have embarked in the first legal mapping of trans rights worldwide.

The report, which is due to be published in the next few months and which will be reviewed by an advisory group of leading experts in the field, will highlight if national laws allow for the possibility of changing name and/or gender marker in official documents, if surgeries and/or irreversible sterilisation are required to change name or gender marker, if gender identity is listed as discrimination grounds in legislation and if there are criminal provisions related gender expression/identity (some countries for example criminalise 'cross-dressing').

There is an urgent need to develop these tools for trans people, not only to raise awareness of the issues they face but also to have properly organised data that can be used to put pressure on governments to encourage them to produce policies and/or amend laws for the inclusion of trans people’s rights. Equally, trans organisations are in desperate need of more funding and the commitment of international trusts, foundations, donors and enlightened governments should also be reflected in the actual support that trans organisations receive.

ILGA has 813 member organisations in all continents and regions of the world, of which 296 have trans rights on their agenda, and 25 are member groups that focus solely on trans rights.

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