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Switzerland passes revolutionary gender bill introducing self-declaration for trans people – but it comes with a catch

Josh Milton December 18, 2020
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A Pride-goer in a pink cowboy hat with a rainbow flag around her back

Switzerland's parliament, the Federal Assembly, passed new gender recognition laws. (FABRICE COFFRINI/AFP via Getty Images)

In a stunning move, Switzerland’s parliament passed a sweeping legal gender recognition bill Friday (18 December) enshrining self-declaration for trans people – but it has a major snag.

Yes, unlike what anti-trans lobbyists in Britain may believe, Switzerland did not implode nor did it become engulfed in hellfire as a result. The sun continues to rise and fall. Birds are, in fact, still tweeting and the wind blowing.

Trans and intersex Swiss can soon change their legal name and the gender marker on government-issued documents with a simple self-declaration at a civil registry office. It scraps previous laws that demanded trans people go through the courts to seek such changes, activists confirmed.

Moreover, administrative fees once tallying in the thousands will be chopped to just 75CHF, they said.

Coming just hours after the Federal Assembly paved the way for marriage equality, activists were euphoric, capping off 2020 by bringing Switzerland, a country that has long been seen as sluggish on LGBT+ rights, in line with some of Europe’s most progressive countries.

It follows Denmark, Norway, Malta, Luxembourg, Ireland, Iceland and Portugal in bringing about self-determination, international trans advocacy group TGEU said in a statement.

However, happiness quickly mingled with dismay as a provision was snuck within the law that introduces an age limitation to gender recognition. Trans youth under-16, as well as those under a general deputyship, must now gain consent from their legal guardians.

If the passed bill is not challenged with a referendum, the country’s top executive authority, the Federal Council, will announce a date for the law to hit the books officially.

Switzerland may offer Russia and Hungary hope, says trans advocacy group

TGEU welcomed the news with a mixture of optimism and caution, both hoping the country may be seen as a blueprint for trans rights while others were dented by the age limit.

“Especially given the backlash against trans people’s human rights in 2020, we are happy to see this law pass before the end of the year.

“Some countries have shown major step-backs in legal gender recognition, such as Hungary or Russia. It offers our communities some hope to see the Swiss example.”

While policy officer Jonas Hamm said: “While we congratulate the Swiss government and Swiss trans activists for this important improvement for the lives of trans and intersex people over 16, we are saddened about the Swiss parliament’s decision to turn back the clock and introduce a provision that discriminates against trans children and youth.

“We hope Swiss lawmakers will reconsider the issue and ensure that LGR is available to everyone on the basis of self-determination, without age limitations in place.”

Related topics: gender recognition, self-ID, Switzerland, Trans, trans rights

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