Third Gender Option Introduced by Germany for Birth Certificates

Germany Hospital
A pregnant woman and her husband walk in the delivery room area of a hospital, Fuerstenfeldbruck, in southern Germany, in this 2013 file photo. |

Germany will permit parents to select a "third gender" on birth certificates for their children, should the child want to identify with a certain gender in the future. Germany is the first country in Europe to pass this type of legislation.

The new law, which is to take effect throughout the country in November, will allow a child born with both male and female physical attributes, also known as a transsexual or hermaphrodite, to pick the option of "gender blank" on their birth certificate so they may choose a "male" or "female" gender later in life. The child may also choose to keep the third gender option forever.

This legislation comes after a constitutional court decision which determined that as long as a person "deeply feels and lives" a particular gender, they have the legal right to be identified with that gender. The new legislation has served as an amendment added to the country's Civil Status Act back in May, although it has gained more national attention as November comes closer.

"If the child cannot be identified as female or male, the personal gender is to be left blank and to be so entered into the births register," the new law states, according to the German newspaper Süddeutsche Zeitung.

The new law applies to hermaphrodites, those born with male and female physical characteristics, rather than transsexuals, those who choose to identify with the opposite sex.

Although some in Germany, including the newspaper Süddeutsche Zeitung, have heralded the new legislation, others have argued that it poses complications to other state-issued documents, such as passports and marriage licenses. Currently, passports require a "male" or "female" gender option, and some groups argue that travel will become difficult if a German's passport simply has a blank space under gender; therefore, groups such as the family law publication FamRZ are calling for the legislation to use an "X" instead of a blank space.

Additionally, Germany does not recognize gay marriage, and marriage certificates require both a male and female participant. Those critical of the legislation argue that the current marriage laws in the country may be subverted if those applying for a marriage license do not belong to a specific gender. Same-sex couples can enter into civil partnerships in Germany, and they receive the same benefits as heterosexual couples.

Germany's Justice Minister Sabine Leuthheusser-Schnarrenberger told the Süddeutsche Zeitung that "comprehensive reform" for other legal documents would be necessary in order for the new law to take effect fully.

About six weeks ago, Australia became the first country in the world to legally introduce a third gender on all official documents, not just birth certificates. New Zealand has also passed legislation which allows citizens to choose an "X" as their gender, while Nepal recently announced its plans to do the same.

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