A judge in Malta has ordered government officials to issue the appropriate documentation to permit a transsexual woman to get married.

The court’s ruling is the first of its kind in the country, which joined the EU in 2004.

The decision, taken yesterday, confirmed that as the woman had undergone gender reassignment surgery, her birth certificate should be changed to reflect her sex as legally female.

Mr. Justice Camilleri has now ordered the director of Public Registry to issue marriage banns and change the name and sex on her birth certificate, di-ve news reports.

The judge also pointed out that nothing in the country’s marriage laws would prevent someone who is legally a woman from marrying a man just because of her former gender.

Malta is one of the most socially conservative countries in the EU.

98% of the population are Roman Catholics, and although homosexuality is legal, there remains significant prejudice.

The Mediterranean island, a British colony until 1964, has around 400,000 inhabitants and is the smallest EU state in terms of both size and population.

In 2000 the government were criticised by gay rights groups for openly homophobic statements criticising EU proposals to treat gay people equally.

Only 18% of the population support gay marriage, a December Eurobarometer survey found.