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Dutch court rules third gender should be recognised

Transgender groups hail 'revolutionary' step as judges declare 'time is ripe' to create neutral option

Tuesday 29 May 2018 17:28 BST
A court in the Netherlands has ruled a third gender should be enshrined in law
A court in the Netherlands has ruled a third gender should be enshrined in law (iStock)

A court in the Netherlands has said a third gender should be enshrined in law in a ground-breaking ruling for people who do not identify as either male or female.

The Limburg District Court in the city of Roermond decided an unnamed applicant could be recorded on their birth register as “gender undetermined”.

Until now, Dutch citizens have had to be registered as either a man or woman.

“The time is ripe for the recognition of a third gender,” the judges said in a statement. “To enable the registration of a third gender ‘X’, a legal amendment is crucial. It’s now up to the lawmakers.”

The case came after the applicant was registered as male at birth in 1961 but had treatment to become a woman in 2001. They later decided they felt “neither like a man or woman” and asked authorities to include a third, gender-neutral entry in the birth register. It was this that was agreed upon in court on Monday.

A similar request by a different person was turned down in 2007 by the high council, the Netherlands’ highest court.

But transgender activists hailed the new ruling as a momentous step in Dutch law – and for European rights.

“This can be called revolutionary within Dutch family law,” Brand Berghouwer of the Netherlands’ Transgender Network said in a statement.

A change in legislation would make the Netherlands one of a select group of countries where a third gender is officially recognised in law. Australia, Germany, Nepal, Bangladesh and India are among those that already provide a third option.

In the UK, which is thought to have 600,000 people who do not identify as male or female, gender neutrality remains largely unrecognised by government and legal institutions.

During a high court case in April in which the rights activist Christie Elan-Cane applied to have a non-gender passport issued, the Home Office said it did “not accept that issuing passports with an X marker could be done without regard to the implications of recognising non-binary status across the government”, adding: “The amendment to legislative policy would incur a huge administrative burden.”

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