The European Court of Human Rights ruled against Romania for its refusal to acknowledge the gender identity of two transgender men. On January 19, ECHR found Romania guilty of violating Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights which states the right to “respect for private and family life.”

The press release issued by the Registrar of the Court stated that the national courts refused to recognise their gender identity unless they furnished the courts with proof of gender reassignment surgery. But the applicants, X and Y, were not ready to do so, thus presenting them with an “impossible dilemma.” Either they had to forfeit their “right to respect for their physical integrity” by going through surgery which provided them with the attendant risk of sterilisation. Or they had to forego recognition of their gender identity which reflected the national courts’ disrespect towards their private life.

In 2013, applicant X brought an action in the District Court against the local council for the first district of Bucharest with a request to amend his gender identity in civil-status records. But his request was denied. The action was dismissed in 2014 and so were his appeals against the dismissal. X maintained that he had had to suffer “constant inconvenience owing to the mismatch between papers issued by the Roman authorities and the male identifiers on documents obtained in the United Kingdom.” Applicant Y brought forth a similar action in 2013 for a change of forename but it was dismissed on the grounds that “no gender reassignment surgery had been performed.” The Romanian courts refused to acknowledge the hormonal therapies and mastectomies the applicants underwent since neither of them had had genital surgery.

 The European Court on Human Rights noted that while the Romanian courts refused to grant the applicants permission to change their gender identity on official documents without gender reassignment surgery, there have been instances where applicants were granted requests without surgery. The Court deemed the Romanian legal framework for the recognition of gender “unclear and therefore unforeseeable.”

The court eventually held that Romania had to pay €1,153 to applicant Y in respect of pecuniary damage, and €7,500 in respect of “non-pecuniary damage to each of the two applicants.” The non-pecuniary damages are to compensate them for their emotional turmoil. The applicants were subjected to humiliation and distress due to the continuous and long-winded court processes.

The Council of Europe Member States set up the European Court of Human Rights in 1959 to deal with alleged violations of the 1950 European Convention on Human Rights.

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