When it comes to transgender issues, France leads the way in hypocrisy.

That is the charge levelled at the French government this week by national transgender organisation Trans-Aide after the French minister for justice Michel Mercier confirmed that the state will not recognise a change of gender identity without proof of “irreversible sterilisation”.

Mr Mercier gave this view on December 30th in response to a written question in the Senate by Maryvonne Blondin.

He wrote: “The irreversible characteristic can result from hormonal treatment, which has the effect of altering certain physiological aspects of an individual, notably their fertility, which can itself be irreversible. It is for those concerned to bring forward proof…”.

This statement follows a bad year for transgender identity in France, leaving the battle lines now drawn for a struggle between Trans-Aide and their allies on one side, and the government and legal establishment on the other.

In April last year, French representatives in the parliament of the Council of Europe buried their political differences and joined with others to support resolution 1728 (2010), requiring member states to ensure that recognition of transgender people should not be contingent on a legal requirement for sterilisation or any other specific medical treatment.

Despite this, when trans woman Delphine Ravisé-Giard, who had already seen her change of civil status turned down by the courts, took her case to the Court of Appeal in Nancy in October, the court refused to endorse this position, stating instead that it would issue its verdict on the matter in the New Year.

In November, Stephanie Nicot, an author and national spokeswoman for Trans-Aide, took her case for gender recognition to the same court with much the same result. The fact that she was living as female and was recognised as such by her circle of friends cut little ice as the court declared: “The right to a private life does not absolve transsexuals from the obligation to provide proofs.”

Both Stephanie and Delphine are continuing their struggle through the French legal system, which is the necessary precursor to taking the issue to the European Court of Human Rights.

Meanwhile, Trans-Aide’s views on the matter are clear. Highlighting the hypocrisy of France co-sponsoring a conference in Geneva in 2010 against the violence that results from homophobia and transphobia, the group has asked the European Commissioner for Human Rights Thomas Hammarberg to recognise that France is failing to respect transgender rights, and to take up the case.

And in a statement issued yesterday, Trans-Aide told PinkNews.co.uk: “The cynicism of many politicians, even at the highest level, will come as no surprise to anyone. But our new minister for justice beats all records!”