Germany backs third gender option on birth certificates

Law facilitates document to be changed retrospectively if wrong gender first registered

Berlin Bundestag: An estimated 80,000 to 120,000 people in Germany identify as intersex.

Berlin Bundestag: An estimated 80,000 to 120,000 people in Germany identify as intersex.

 

Germany’s Bundestag has voted to allow citizens choose a third gender in the birth register alongside male and female: “divers”, which translate roughly as various or other.

The new law comes 13 months after Germany’s highest court said it was unconstitutional to force people to choose if they were either male or female.

The law change means that people born as intersex, 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, can be registered in this way.

The law change allows birth certificates to be changed retrospectively if the wrong gender was previously registered at birth. People will also be able to change their first name on their birth certificate if they feel their gender was entered incorrectly. For both, however, a medical certificate will usually be required.

Gender traits

According to the United Nations, between 0.05 and 1.7 per cent of the global population are intersex – about the same percentage as people with red hair. Sometimes this is apparent at birth, at other times it becomes noticeable in puberty.

An estimated 80,000 to 120,000 people in Germany identify as intersex. This means they do not possess gender traits that are generally described as belonging to “male” or “female” people.

After Friday’s vote, Germany’s LGBTI community – as well as politicians from the Social Democratic Party (SPD) and the Greens – said the legislation was far from perfect.

As well as people requiring a doctor’s certificate to change their status, they said the law focused too much on physical attributes

Henny Engels, head of Germany’s Lesbian and Gay Association, said that “gender cannot be determined solely by physical characteristics, but is also determined by social and psychological factors”.

Since 2013 in Germany it has been possible to leave blank the gender field on birth certificates of babies born with characteristics of both sexes.