Georgia’s denial of legal gender recognition to trans man to be challenged before European Court

Published: 3 Aug 2017

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“The process of legal gender recognition is not regulated by the State. This increases the risk of unemployment and poverty for transgender people, leading to their marginalisation, and rendering them vulnerable to transphobic hate crime. Stigma, unemployment and poverty present further obstacles for trans people in accessing the tools they need to seek legal gender recognition, creating a vicious circle, which is extremely difficult to overcome.”

Keti Bakhtadze (Lawyer), Women’s Initiative Supporting Group

 On 1 August 2017, Georgian trans man Mr D[1] lodged his application before the European Court of Human Rights, challenging Georgia’s refusal to change the gender marker in his official documents. Mr D is represented by the European Human Rights Advocacy Centre, based at Middlesex University (London), and the Women’s Initiatives Supporting Group (WISG, Tbilisi).

Mr D’s application to change the gender marker in his official records to reflect his male gender was refused by the Georgian authorities, who argue that he must undergo gender re-assignment surgery before being allowed to do so: such surgery is not provided by the state healthcare system. Without documents which reflect his acquired gender, Mr D is subjected to humiliating treatment and verbal abuse whenever he has to show his identity documents, for example when accessing medical care, banking and crossing the border, and is unable to obtain a permanent job and effectively participate in the upbringing of his children. Despite recent anti-discrimination legislation, Georgia is a socially conservative country, and Mr D’s situation causes him great anxiety and fear, and has isolated him within his local community.

The Court recently ruled in a French case that the requirement to undergo gender re-assignment surgery for legal gender recognition is in breach of the right to respect for private and family life (Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR)). Mr D similarly argues a breach of his right to respect for his private and family life, in that he should not be required to undergo such a surgery. He also argued that he has been subjected to degrading treatment (Article 3 ECHR) and that he has been discriminated against on the basis of his gender identity as a result of the Georgian authorities’ failure to change the gender marker on his official documents (Article 14 ECHR).

“Mr D’s case reflects a systemic problem in Georgia. Obtaining legal gender recognition is crucial to ensuring that trans people can live in dignity, without harassment, fear and discrimination. However, Georgian law fails to clearly regulate the manner in which trans people can obtain legal gender recognition, with inconsistent and arbitrary consequences, as in Mr D’s case.  We hope that by litigating this case before the European Court, the position for trans people seeking legal recognition in Georgia will be clearer and simpler in the future.” 

Ramute Remezaite (Legal Consultant) and Joanne Sawyer (Lawyer), EHRAC

A crowd attacks a minibus carrying gay rights activists during an International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia (IDAHO) rally in Tbilisi, May 17, 2013. REUTERS/Stringer
A crowd attacks a minibus carrying gay rights activists during an International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia (IDAHO) rally in Tbilisi, May 17, 2013. REUTERS/Stringer

This is EHRAC and WISG’s first joint case. To support our argument, we obtained an expert report on the detrimental impact of denial of legal gender recognition on trans individuals from Prof. Stephen Whittle at Manchester Metropolitan University. EHRAC and the Georgian Young Lawyers’ Association represent WISG before the Court in a case concerning abuse against LGBT activists taking part in a flash mob organised to mark the International Day against Homophobia in 2013.

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[1] Mr D wishes to remain anonymous.