Chile takes first step to approving gender recognition bill

The bill, which seeks to enshrine individuals’ right to recognition of their gender identity, was passed in the senate with 26 votes in favor and 14 against. It will now be sent to the chamber of deputies

September 08, 2018 by Notas Periodismo Popular
Trans activists demand state recognition of their right to gender identity. | Photo: Twitter/@OTDChile

In a win for transgender and gender diverse communities, the Chilean senate on Tuesday passed the Gender Recognition Bill which allows people 14 years and older to change their names and sex to reflect their identity. With 26 votes in favor, 14 against and no abstentions, the passage of the bill saw the Latin American country take a major step towards recognizing the right of individuals to their self-perceived identity.

“It is a tremendous achievement that the senate has approved the bill, and at the same time has recognized the right to gender identity of transgender adolescents”, said Jimena Lizama, the legal director of Iguales Foundation, one of the main promoters of the bill. However, “it is unfortunate that it has excluded children, who are also subjects of rights and therefore, also have the right to recognition of their right to gender identity, as it has been recognized by the executive power, judiciary and the Inter-American Court of Human Rights, among others” she added.

The discussion on the initiative took place in a tense atmosphere due to demonstrations in favor of and against by those present on the compound.

“The society has changed and it is necessary to take charge of the changes in Chilean society. What the Chilean society does is that it respects something, while not trying to impose it on the rest”, said Senator Richard Lagos, in response to the audience’s objections. “Nobody will be forced to change their name or gender in the Civil Registry” he added.

According to the text of law, those young people and adolescents who wish to change their gender identity and are between 14 and 18 years old, should contact a family court and have the support of at least one of their parents or legal representatives/guardians. In case no one supports the decision, the individual concerned can request judicial intervention, following which a decision will be taken on whether or not to accept the request.

In case of adults, approval of change will depend on the applicant’s marital status. If they are single, they may submit  a request before the civil registry, accompanied by two witnesses who testify that the applicant understands the legal importance of the request. For those who are married, they must go to a family court and, if the judge approves the change, the marriage will be terminated, in case it is necessary.

In addition, the text of the law guarantees everyone the right to be recognized and protected in their freedom to express their gender identity, which may include ways of speaking or dressing, bodily modifications, and forms of behavior and social interaction, among other aspects.

It also envisages programs that are aimed at children and adolescents whose gender identity does not coincide with their sex and registration name. These programs, which will be the responsibility of the ministry of social development, in collaboration with the ministry of health, will provide psychological and biopsychosocial advice that will allow them to develop integrally, according to their gender identity.

If the chamber of deputies, the other house of legislature, approves the measure, President Sebastián Piñera will have a 30-day deadline to approve or reject the legislation. If he does not make any observations during this period, the law is understood to be approved and will soon be implemented.