France: Presidential elections highlight trans voters’ rights gap
As the dust settles on the first round of the French Presidential election this morning, a sharp warning from France’s National Transgender Association (ANT), that discrimination by the French state means that trans citizens can no longer count on access to that most basic of Human Rights – the right to vote!
According to a spokesperson for the ANT, the problem arises with the refusal of the French government to permit trans individuals to change their civil status without first submitting to significant preconditions. Tens of thousands of trans voters who wish to protect their private life can therefore no longer register for electoral purposes.
Evidence that this issue is very live came as Madame Delphine Ravisé-Giard, ANT’s National Secretary found her attempt to vote last week blocked by officials in Toul in the Meurthe-Moselle Department in the North-East of France.
Despite holding papers from the court of Appeal in Nancy, dated September 2011, recognizing her change of status, and taking with her identity documents and a voting card all amended in line with that judgment, Delphine still found herself blocked from voting because the electoral register had not been updated.
Delphine was eventually allowed to vote – but only after she had been forced to provide detailed and very public explanation of her status to officials present. She has now written to the Mayor of Toul, complaining of her treatment and demanding that the Electoral Register be amended in line with the court’s decision.
In her letter, she talks about the disrespect to her right to privacy. She writes: “I was required to provide detailed explanations, which in turn obliged me to reveal to all those present in the voting station a particular detail concerning my private life. I had to insist forcefully on my right to vote.”
Commenting on this state of affairs, Stéphanie Nicot, spokeswoman for ANT said: “For everyone else in France, voting is a civic duty. For transgender persons simply to exercise their right is a battle. This situation has to change – and fast!”
Despite the fact that such a situation may be considered a disgrace in a modern democracy, this story reveals little new about what is happening in France, beyond, possibly, a degree of bureaucratic ineptitude in Toul.
The French state continues to resist calls from the EU to recognise the gender status of trans men and women without sterilisation or surgical intervention. Ms Ravisé-Giard has been at the forefront of legal battles to change this attitude – but clearly, even where the courts recognise a change of status, electoral officials are rather slower to put such changes into effect.