Germany Passes Self-Determination Act To Allow Individuals 14 and Over to Change Name and Gender

Germany Passes Self-Determination Act To Allow Individuals 14 and Over to Change Name and Gender

Germany’s parliament has this week passed a significant new law known as the Self-Determination Act, making it easier for trans and non-binary individuals aged 14 and older to legally change their first name and gender.

This can now be completed through a straightforward declaration to the registry office instead of the previous arduous and invasive processes.

Self-Determination Act allows individuals to live their lives authentically

The act marks a major shift away from the country’s 40-year-old “Transsexuals Act”, which required trans people to undergo assessments from medical experts and satisfy invasive requirements, such as surgical procedures and expert reports, to be legally recognised as their chosen gender.

The legal process could take up to 20 months and cost an average of 1900 euros, according to a 2017 report by the German government. During an interview with German outlet ZDF television in August, Justice Minister Marco Buschmann criticised this outdated system as “very degrading” and emphasised the importance of making life easier for transgender and non-binary individuals.

Buschmann highlighted how invasive and intrusive the previous process was for those seeking to live their lives authentically.

“Imagine that you … simply want to live your life and you don’t wish anyone anything bad, and then you’re questioned about what your sexual fantasies are, what underwear you wear, and similar things,” he said.

“Now we simply want to make life a bit easier for a small group for which it has great significance.”

The new legislation, which was passed with a majority vote of 374 MPs in favour, 251 against, and 11 abstentions, will come into force in November.

“Trans people exist and deserve recognition and protection”

Under the Self-Determination Act, individuals 14 years and older can change their first name and gender entry through a straightforward declaration at the registry office.

For minors aged 14 and above, parental consent is required to make the change, but if their parents do not approve, under-18s can request a family court to overrule their parents.

For children under 14, their parents or guardians must apply on their behalf.

Cristian González Cabrera, a senior LGBTQ+ rights researcher at Human Rights Watch, praised the new law.

“As populist politicians in Europe and beyond try to use trans rights as a political wedge issue, Germany’s new law sends a strong message that trans people exist and deserve recognition and protection, without discrimination,” he said in a statement.

Germany’s decision stands in contrast to similar debates and challenges in other European countries, such as the United Kingdom.

In the UK, Scotland’s self-ID legislation, the Gender Recognition Reform (Scotland) Bill, was passed in December 2022 but faced significant obstacles when the UK government blocked it using a controversial Section 35 order.

The move led to a high-profile court battle, which the UK government ultimately won.

The German government also acknowledged the rising violence against the queer community within the country and had previously set up a working group in response to the issue.

The federal interior minister, Nancy Faeser, reported that 1,400 violent crimes against sexual minorities were recorded annually, a number that continued to rise in 2022.

While the process of recognising trans rights varies across Europe, Germany’s new Self-Determination Act marks a progressive step towards recognising and protecting the rights of trans and non-binary individuals.

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