Trans law proposal allows documents but not gender reassignment surgery
The Lithuanian Ministry of Justice has proposed that persons who have undergone gender reassignment surgery be issued with new identity documents upon presentation of a medical statement without the need to apply for such documents through the court. At the same time it proposes that gender reassignment surgery shall not be regulated by a separate law. Mr. Antanas Matulas, Chairman of the Committee on Health Affairs in the Lithuanian Parliament, has expressed concerns that separate regulations would legitimize “supernatural” and “immoral” surgeries in Lithuania. Meanwhile human rights advocates argue that if such proposals are put into practice, the situation of trans persons could become even worse.
Trans people face two major obstacles in Lithuania. Firstly, gender reassignment surgeries are out of the legal scope. Secondly, if a trans person undergoes gender reassignment abroad, they are refused new documents in Lithuania. To be issued with new documents they must apply through the court.
Representatives of the Lithuanian government promised to change the current practice at the recent UN Human Rights Committee’s session in Geneva, where Lithuania was under review.
To this end the Ministry of Justice has put forward a procedure allowing Civil Registry Offices to register gender reassignment upon presentation of a medical statement. Until now Civil Registry Offices have been able to issue new documents only with a court order.
“People who have applied through the court have always won such cases. In most cases, the court has also ordered compensation. The situation is awkward, as Civil Registry Offices are well aware of such practice by the court, but there is no legal basis for them to issue documents based only on a medical statement, even though they know that the court will then order them to do so,” explained Mr. Tomas Vaitkevičius, Vice Minister of Justice, in an interview with news portal Delfi.
According to Mr. Vaitkevičius, if such proposals were approved, the court would be left out of the process and gender reassignment could be registered based on a medical statement.
The Ministry of Justice has also made another proposal which it believes would meet Lithuania’s international obligations rising from the 2007 decision of the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) in the case L vs. Lithuania, concerning a trans person’s right to gender reassignment surgery which Lithuania lost. The Court stated that Lithuania violated L’s right to respect of privacy. The ruling obligated the State to enact a law regulating the procedure and conditions of gender reassignment within three months from the date of the decision entering into force. Though the Civil Code stipulates a person’s right to change his/her gender, this provision must be regulated by a special law that has been missing from the Lithuanian legal scope.
The Ministry of Justice suggests fully removing the mentioned provision from the Civil Code.
“We believe the decision of the ECtHR is enforceable without the provision of the Civil Code requiring a special law. With no such law, the reason for the ECtHR’s decision would be eliminated,” explained Mr. Vaitkevičius. According to the Vice Minister, this is the way to comply with the ECtHR’s decision.
At present, the Civil Code provides that any unmarried person of full age is entitled to medical gender reassignment if medically feasible. Last year representatives of the conservative wing, Mr. Antanas Matulas, Chairman of the Committee on Health Affairs in the Parliament, and Mrs. Vida Marija Čigriejienė, a member of the Committee, made a proposal to include into the Civil Code a clause prohibiting any medical gender reassignment. Mr. Matulas seems to have remained of the same opinion and has expressed strong criticism against the proposal by the Ministry of Justice.
Mr. Matulas, a gynecologist by profession, has advised that there are countries that have developed expertise in gender reassignment surgeries, such as Thailand and Indonesia, and that surgeries can be carried out there and documents then registered in Lithuania.
“Find another treatment and if nothing else helps and you really believe that nature and God have made a mistake, save some cash, go somewhere else and let someone cut off or attach whatever you might wish. But I will never agree to such surgeries being financed at the expense of actually ill persons – those with cancer, diabetes or heart disease,” said Mr. Matulas.
The initiatives by the Ministry of Justice have also been criticized by Mr. Vytautas Valentinavičius, Board Member of the Lithuanian Gay League (LGL), who believes they will make the situation even worse.
“This proposal by the Ministry of Justice would not implement the decision of the ECtHR in the case L vs. Lithuania and would instead restrict people’s legitimate expectations and further worsen the situation of trans persons in Lithuania,” argues Mr. Valentinavičius.
According to Mr. Valentinavičiaus, the suggested amendment eliminating the second part of Article 2.27 of the Civil Code that stipulates the Government’s duty to regulate gender reassignment would put trans people or people in the process of gender reassignment in an uncertain position.
According Mr. Valentinavičius, with the absence of such a procedure, the issue of hormonal treatment would remain unsolved and such people would be forced to search for finances to undergo gender reassignment abroad.
“According to this draft law, it is only after the completion of gender reassignment process and medical treatment abroad that it will be possible to present the documented proof of gender reassignment in Lithuania, and then again only after presentation of such proof will it be possible to register gender reassignment in Lithuania and be issued with new documents. This would create a precedent in Lithuania to “implement” the ECtHR decision by worsening the actual situation – eliminating provisions that allowed people to reasonably expect proper regulation of gender reassignment,” the Board Member of LGL stated.
For the proposals by the Ministry of Justice to be enforced, they must first be approved by the Government and the Parliament.
Source : www.atviri.lt