The Netherlands Passes Landmark Gender Identity Law

Transgender people in the Netherlands will no longer be required to be sterilized or undergo surgery in order to change their gender identity on official documents.

Dutch Queen Maxima (left) receives a map showing status of LGBT rights in Europe. KOEN VAN WEEL/AFP / Getty

A new law expected to take effect in July gives transgender people in the Netherlands the ability to change their identity on official documents with only a statement from “an expert” testifying to their desire to change their gender identification.

The Dutch parliament passed the law, which applies to those over the age of 16, in the early hours of Wednesday morning local time. Under current law, transgender people are only able to change their documentation after being sterilized, undergoing other gender modification surgery, and getting a court order.

“This law is a victory for transgender [people] in the Netherlands,” the chairs of the Transgender Network Netherlands and the country’s oldest LGBT organization, COC-Netherlands, said in a joint statement. “There is an end to all the humiliating situations that transgender people still daily deal with because the sex designation on their paper is different from the gender in which they live.”

In a 2011 report, Human Rights Watch had denounced the Netherlands’ gender identity law for violating “transgender people’s rights to personal autonomy and physical integrity, and [denying] them the ability to define their own gender identity.”

Boris Dittrich, a former Dutch parliamentarian who is now advocacy director of the LGBT program for Human Rights Watch, called the bill’s passage “a major step forward.”

But the Transgender Network Netherlands and COC-Netherlands said the new law still needed revisions. They said the Netherlands should seek a law similar to the landmark gender identity law adopted by Argentina last year, which does not require any “expert” certification for people seeking to change their gender classification. They also want the age requirement eliminated.

“The two organizations will keep up the pressure and advocate for the law to be amended in order to meet all the needs of transgender people in the Netherlands,” the groups said.

J. Lester Feder is a foreign correspondent for BuzzFeed and 2013 Alicia Patterson journalism fellow.

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