Dutch civil law violates the human rights of transgender people. That is the conclusion of a report published by Human Rights Watch on Tuesday. The Dutch government is urged to change the law without delay.
Article 28 of the Dutch civil code requires transgender people to take hormones and undergo surgery to alter their bodies and be permanently and irreversibly sterilized before they can have their gender legally recognized on official documents. However, not every transgender person wants to undergo irreversible gender altering surgery.
Human Rights Watch says the article constitutes a violation of international human rights instruments by making recognition of gender identity conditional on medical intervention. Article 28 was introduced in 1985. The report shows its impact on the daily lives of transgender people in the Netherlands.
“The Dutch law causes anguish for trans people who have not had the required surgery,” said Boris Dittrich, advocacy director in the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender (LGBT) Rights Program at Human Rights Watch. “Their documents do not match their deeply-felt gender identity. This leads to frequent public humiliation, vulnerability to discrimination, and great difficulty finding or holding a job.” Another person summed up the objections to article 28 this way: “The state should stay out of our underwear.”
Human Rights Watch interviewed 28 transgender people for the report, as well as medical professionals, legal experts, government officials, representatives of NGOs and academics.
Several European countries like Portugal, the United Kingdom, and Spain have already done away with the surgical and hormonal requirements. As the law stands in the Netherlands, transgender people must undergo major surgery, requiring considerable recovery time, to change their official gender.
The Human Rights Watch report will be presented to Deputy Justice Minister Fred Teeven on Thursday.
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