Gender Self-Identification

News: The Spanish government has approved the first draft of a bill that would allow anyone over the age of 14 to legally change gender without a medical diagnosis or hormone therapy.

What is gender self-identification?

  • Self-identification, or ‘self-id’, is the concept that a person should be allowed to legally identify with the gender of their choice by simply declaring so, and without facing any medical tests.
  • This has been a long-held demand of trans-right groups around the world, including in India, as prejudice against trans people remains rampant.
  • In Europe, this issue has remained divisive not only on liberal-conservative lines but also within the LGBT community. The current processes for declaring one’s desired gender are lengthy, expensive and degrading.
  • Some feminist and gay-rights groups insist that such a law could endanger women and cause more gay teenagers to be told that they might be trans and thus encouraged towards hormones and surgery.
  • Feminist forums believe that sex is not something that can be chosen. They insist that allowing self-identification could put at risk all laws that specifically prevent discrimination against women. They have instead asked lawmakers to look at concerns that they say are more pressing, such as the gender pay gap.

Arguments in Favour:

  • The current processes for declaring one’s desired gender are lengthy, expensive and degrading.
  • Trans people face daily discrimination and it is vital that steps are taken to tackle discrimination and provide the services and support people need. Gender identity is considered to be an inherent part of a person which may or may not need surgical or hormonal treatment or therapy and all persons must be empowered to make their decisions affecting their own bodily integrity and physical autonomy.

Arguments Against:

  • Gender self-identification goes far beyond respecting people’s right to believe what they want; to dress or act or express their identity as they want. This is a political and social demand that affects everybody, but in particular women, gay people and transsexuals.
  • The medicalization of gender identity has allowed for vital legal recognition and transition-related healthcare for some members of the trans community.

Gender identification in India:

  • In India, the rights of transgender persons are governed by the Transgender Persons (Protection of Rights) Act, 2019 and the Transgender Persons (Protection of Rights) Rules, 2020.
  • Under the Rules, an application to declare gender is to be made to the District Magistrate. Parents can also make an application on behalf of their child. There will be no medical or physical examination for procedures for issue of certificate of identity/change of gender.
  • In National Legal Services Authority (NALSA) v. Union of India, 2014 case, the Supreme Court declared transgender people to be a ‘third gender’.
  • The Court interpreted ‘dignity’ under Article 21 of the Constitution to include diversity in self-expression, which allowed a person to lead a dignified life. It placed one’s gender identity within the framework of the fundamental right to dignity under Article 21.
  • Further, it noted that the right to equality (Article 14 of the Constitution) and freedom of expression (Article 19(1)(a)) was framed in gender-neutral terms (“all persons”). In 2018, the SC also decriminalised same-sex relationships (Read down the Provisions of Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code).