Argentina Adopts Landmark Legislation in Recognition of Gender Identity

New York – In Argentina, human rights advocates worldwide are celebrating the passage of the most progressive gender identity law in history. The law gives self-identified trans people access to critical services without the need for medical intervention and provides for specific human rights protections. Argentina’s Senate passed the law on May 9th, with 55 votes in favor, one abstention and no votes against. The vote itself is remarkable.

Jessica Stern, Acting Executive Director of the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission (IGLHRC) enthusiastically hailed the legislation, saying, “Argentina has set a new benchmark for protecting and recognizing the human rights of transgender individuals. I congratulate the advocates who worked over many years, with sustained strength, careful strategy and diverse unity to make this legislation a reality.”

“All too often, transgender people are subject to violent hate crimes and denied education, housing, healthcare and employment,” Stern continued. “Governments around the world should follow Argentina’s lead and implement progressive legislation to protect the rights of trans people everywhere.”

Comments from Transgender Activists from Argentina and the United States:
Alejandro Nasif Salum, Secretary of International Relations at Argentina Federation LGBT, who worked very closely on this bill, said, “This law is the result of tireless work of activists and civil society organizations. The Argentina LGBT Federation (FALGBT) is deeply proud to be part of a network of 60 organizations from around the country made up of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people. We believe that it was this diversity, in every sense, that was one of the keys to success that has permitted us to do this complex and diverse work and arrive to a law today that we are so proud of and provides an unimaginable leap in the quality of life for trans people.” Salum details how this how this extraordinary legislation came into being in a blog post exclusive to IGLHRC.

Dana Beyer, M.D., the Executive Director of Gender Rights Maryland who works to advance human rights in the United States, said, “With isolationism and parochialism traditional American pastimes, it’s easy to be blind to historic changes in human rights happening globally. Argentina just became the first country to completely depathologize transsexualism and allow social and medical/surgical transition, with free access to quality health care, and without documentation or court order. It is a recognition of innate human variation, and the ability of human beings to know themselves sufficiently to live free and pursue happiness. It is the new standard for global human rights.”

Mauro Cabral of GATE (Global Action for Trans* Equality) in Argentina said in a press release, “This legal change in Argentina is also a message going beyond borders. A message for countries in the region to advance their commitments on gender identity and human rights issues. A message for all those countries that even today consecrate human rights violations such as forced sterilization in their gender identity laws. This law sends a clear message against transphobic violence, and affirms the full status as humans of trans* people and their right to all rights. It is a message stating that the Yogyakarta Principles are enforceable and that in access to transitional health, trans* identities and experiences can be depathologized. It is a message for all trans* activists everywhere: change is possible. GATE congratulates Argentinean activists for this groundbreaking achievement, and celebrate this historical opportunity for all.”

Transgender Activists from Malaysia and Guatemala speak out about Transphobia:
Johana Esmeralda Ramirez, spokesperson for Trans Organization Reinas de la Noche (OTRANS) in Guatemala, presented a shadow report to the UN Human Rights Committee in March 2012. Ramirez spoke of the tragic situation for trans people in Guatemala in a press release, saying, “During 2011, we organized trans women have suffered a series of attacks against us, culminating in a climax of murder.” She continued, “The recent cases and those suffered over the past decade are accompanied by a string of discrimination (in public spaces such as health centers, schools, prisons, etc.), persecution, and extortion perpetrated mainly by security forces.”

The shadow report, produced jointly by IGLHRC, OTRANS and others, documents a string of murders and systematic discrimination to which transgender people in Guatemala are subjected.

Nisha Ayub, Transgender Program Manager, PT Foundation in Malaysia, spoke to an audience of 3,000 activists at Creating Change: The National Conference for LGBT Equality in January. Ayub told her personal story about her experiences with discrimination: “I was arrested by religious officers when I was 21 years old, in my going of changing towards a trans woman. I was put in a male lockup. I was treated badly. Tortured. Discriminated against. And of course, I was sexually abused in the jail. There was no one to help me. I couldn’t say anything because in Malaysia, if you are a transgender person, you have no rights. You are stripped naked. When I say stripped naked, I mean it. Ok. I was forced to walk naked in front of all the officers, just for them to make fun of me.”

GLHRC Regional Program Coordinators comment on the Argentinean legislation:
Hossein Alizadeh, Program Coordinator for Middle East and North Africa, said, “This law comes at a time when trans people in Turkey are constantly the subject of societal violence and police brutality. In Iran, sex reassignment surgeries are permissible under the law, however the government does not acknowledge the right for an individual to self-identify their gender identity. The decision of the Argentinean lawmakers to allow individuals—regardless of their biological gender and/or their decision to undergo a sex reassignment surgery—to determine their own gender identity is truly commendable.”
He continued, saying, “I hope this landmark decision in Argentina will encourage other governments to allow each and every individual to freely determine their gender identity, free from social taboos, religious dogmas and legal pressures.”

Damian Ugwu, Program Coordinator for Africa, said, “African activists will be encouraged by this development knowing that this latest bill in Argentina is a result of years of hard work by Argentine LGBTI activists. African trans individuals report that they often struggle simply to have access to basic health care services. While this development in Argentina is unlikely to have a direct effect on the struggle of African trans individuals to be treated with dignity, for African LGBTI activists, it provides a much needed reference point for ongoing advocacy work.

He continued, saying, “A few years back when Argentina legalized same sex marriage it was hardly mentioned in the African mainstream media. The same thing will likely happen in this case. However, that will not stop us from using Argentina as a reference point in our continuing efforts to advance the rights of transgender people.”

Grace Poore, Program Coordinator for Asia and Pacific Islands, said “In so many countries legal recognition for transgender people is contingent on having sex reassignment surgery or sterilization and a psychiatric evaluation, which forces people to be viewed and treated as somehow broken needing to be fixed when there’s no medical reason for such invasive, even punitive eligibility requirements. Argentina has broken through this practice and brought respect and dignity into the legalization process. What a remarkable breakthrough!”

The International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission (IGLHRC), founded in 1990, is a leading international human rights organization dedicated to improving the lives of people who experience discrimination or abuse on the basis of their sexual orientation, gender identity or expression. We are dedicated to strengthening the capacity of the LGBT human rights movement worldwide to conduct documentation of LGBT human rights violations and by engaging in human rights advocacy with partners around the globe. We work with the United Nations, regional human rights monitoring bodies and civil society partners. IGLHRC holds consultative status at the United Nations as a recognized Non-Governmental Organization representing the concerns and human rights of lesbian, gay bisexual and transgender people worldwide. For more information about the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission visit:
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Source – IGLHRC