Germany Allows Indeterminate Babies to be Registered as Neither Male Nor Female

On Friday, Germany became the first among the European countries to allow registrations of newborn babies with characteristics of both sexes as neither male nor female, but advocates impelled further changes.

The new law states that the field for gender on birth certificates can be left blank and unanswered, which will automatically consider it for indeterminate gender in the public register. It is intended for the child’s parents, to remove  pressure on making decisions about the genital surgeries for newborns.

Activists who promote the rights of intersex people were hoping for a third gender option that would welcome broader changes and limit genital surgeries on babies with both gender characteristics.

“It’s a first, important step in the right direction,” says intersex person named Lucie Veith from Hamburg, Germany. Veith noted that the new legislation that leaves the gender undefined on birth certificate is not what the Association of Intersexed People’s main demand, but forbidding cosmetic genital surgeries for newborn babies.

The organization hails for banning the medically unnecessary surgeries for intersexed children below 16 of age. That is when the child can decide on their own whether to live as girl, or a boy, or neither.

The Policy Director at International Lesbian and Gay Association or ILGA Europe, Silvan Agius, believes that surgeries are likely to continue in Germany. “I don’t want any surgery until my child can choose his or her gender,” Agius said.

Agius and advocates fear that the new law will not implement changes in society operations on facilities with gender binary, such as separate male and female public restrooms. “There could be many other laws that could follow it and make it implementable and good. My point is that if it remains as is…then it’s greatly deficient,” Agius added.

According to experts, one out of 2,000 born babies has indeterminate gender features, and to physically assign a gender, it has to undergo surgeries such as clitoral reductions, undescended testicle removal, and/or vaginoplasty or the surgical creation of vagina.

On 2012, the European Commission reports that these surgeries could be performed on babies from some European countries even without the informed consent of the parents. Because of that, many of these intersex-born people were outraged that these was performed without their permission to do so.

Hertha Richter-Appelt from University Medical Center Hamburg-Eppendorf stated in Der Speigel, an online edition of German news magazine, that not all people who have undergone these surgeries as children were unhappy.

And for the first time, the Council of Europe addressed the genital surgery issues for intersex individuals last month. The parliamentary assembly took a resolution for further studies of the widespread ‘non-medically justified operations’ that could harm children, and take actions to ‘ensure that no one is subjected to unnecessary medical or surgical treatment that is cosmetic rather than vital for health during infancy or childhood’.

photo credit: Philippe Huguen
(Photo Credit: Philippe Huguen)

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