Europe divided on gender self-determination

In its longest ever session, the Scottish Parliament on Thursday passed a new bill which will allow transgender people aged 16 and older to apply for legal recognition of their gender without the need for a medical diagnosis. On the same day, the government of Switzerland, the Federal Council, opposed the introduction of the category "Diverse" on identity documents. A fierce debate over the issue is raging in both countries.

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The Scotsman (GB) /

Finally an end to discrimination

Commenting in The Scotsman, columnist Emma Hutton dismisses critics' concerns:

“Trans people will still have to provide evidence of living in their gender for a defined period. They will be required to sign a statutory declaration and it will be a criminal offence to make a false declaration. ... It will bring Scotland more into line with international human rights standards. It recognises that trans people's rights to privacy and dignity are compromised by current processes, and that this has knock-on negative consequences for many more of their rights.”

The Times (GB) /

Open to abuse

The new law puts girls and women at greater risk of abuse, The Times criticises:

“The rights of trans people are not up for debate. Nonetheless, allowing anyone to obtain a gender recognition certificate (GRC) on the basis of self-identification is a mistake. ... The bill does not provide mechanisms to safeguard against potential abuse. While it states that wrongful declaration is a criminal offence, it offers no way of policing this. An amendment which would have introduced a blanket ban for convicted sex offenders changing their gender was also rejected.”

Tages-Anzeiger (CH) /

How cowardly

The Tages-Anzeiger laments the government's decision:

“If this 'lame duck' Federal Council gets his way, there will be no discussion for the foreseeable future about whether people who are neither a man nor a woman should also be properly listed and referred to in their passports, at the civil registry office, and in statistics. ... Every single line of the paper expresses the refusal to engage even minimally in such a discussion. It is thus just as much a refusal to face the clear facts: there is a minority - admittedly a small one - that is discriminated against if it is only allowed to assign itself to either the category 'woman' or 'man'.”

Neue Zürcher Zeitung (CH) /

Complex and ambivalent

The introduction of a third gender would have far-reaching consequences for the legal system, the Neue Zürcher Zeitung points out:

“What about compulsory military service for gender-diverse people? What about widows' pensions [which only women receive in Switzerland]? The language of the law would also need to be reconsidered. Last but not least, many aspects of daily life, from access to public buildings, hospital rooms, cloakrooms, toilets and much more would have to be rethought. And against the background of MeToo, those who argue that the whole thing should not be unnecessarily complicated and that all rooms should simply be opened to all genders are making things sound easier than they are.”