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    Parliament approves law on transgender individuals

    Today (Thursday) parliament approved the bill facilitating the administrative procedures for sex changes. The text was almost unanimously approved. There were, however, six abstentions amongst the Flemish nationalist parties, four from the New Flemish Alliance and two from Vlaams Belang.

    Up until now, the law anticipated stringent medical conditions as well as compulsory sterilisation. The previous mechanism misjudged the right of an individual’s self-determination, and was contrary to human rights law. Last month, the European Court of Human Rights sanctioned France in this sphere, owing to its demand for sterilisation in a particular case.

    In Belgium, the new procedure will be instigated by a declaration before a registrar. The individual concerned must join in the declaration saying that they have had the conviction for a while that the sex shown on their birth certificate does not correspond to their gender identity as lived in private.

    The registry official should draw the attention of the person concerned to the consequences of signing the document, and inform them of the remainder of the procedure. He or she should also make the Public Prosecutor aware of the declaration.

    The Public Prosecutor then has three months to give a decision as to whether the sex change is able to proceed. If the Public Prosecutor gives a negative decision, the individual has a right of appeal to the family court. If the decision is not given in a timely manner, it is deemed to be treated in law as favourable to the applicant.

    After the declaration is made, a legal time period starts to run. The individual should appear a second time before the registry official, reiterate their declaration that they wish to have a sex change and state that they are aware of the legal and administrative consequences that this change will entail. Next, and finally, the birth certificate is altered.

    A procedure is also anticipated for minors, which will allow them the right to change their first name from the age of 12. The next stage, in terms of obtaining a sex change, will then be able to be undertaken from the age of 16. From this age, the sex can be changed on the birth certificate. The individual’s parent or a legal representative must attend in both of the cases in this paragraph. In addition, a declaration from a child psychiatrist is also necessary for such a minor to undergo a sex change.

    Lars Andersen
    The Brussels Times