German parents will be able to register their children as genderless starting Nov. 1, the first regulation of its kind for infants that lack gender-determining anatomy.
The law is meant to fight discrimination and allow parents to determine the sex later in life. Or they may never define the child’s gender, letting their birth certificate remain “undetermined” or “unspecified.”
“A key aim of the new rule is to relieve parents of the pressure of having to decide a sex straight after the child’s birth, and thereby agreeing overly hastily to medical procedures to settle the child’s sex,” a spokesman for the German Interior Ministry told Reuters.
The new law was brought about thanks to a study by the German Ethics Council that found intersex individuals need better protection against irreversible medical interventions.
“If a child cannot be designated male or female, then they should be entered on the birth register without such a status,” the dictate states.
Reuters reported at least 150 intersex babies are born in the country each year, according to 2007 government figures, but support groups say the number is actually much higher. An estimated 8,000 to 10,000 also have “serious variations” from normal anatomy.
In Australia and Nepal, adult citizens can amend official documents to note their gender as “X.” It is not clear if German law will allow identification documents to lack a gender.
Though the statute allows parents to not select a gender, the interior ministry spokesman emphasized that the change does not imply a third gender has been created, as the boxes for male and female are just left blank.
Silvan Agius, policy director at the Brussels-based rights group Equality for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex People in Europe (ILGA), said the regulation still did not go far enough.
“Unnecessary surgeries will likely continue in Germany with devastating consequences … we live in a world where having a baby classified as ‘other’ is still considered undesirable,” he said.