Victory for transgender people in the Netherlands - New Dutch Transgender law adopted by Senate

Submitted by COC Netherlands

Last Tuesday night a large majority of the Dutch senate voted in favor of a new transgender law. The Transgender Network Netherlands (TNN) and COC Netherlands speak of a “victory for transgender people in the Netherlands”.

The Law is expected to take effect on July 1 2014.

The new law offers transgender people, aged 16 years and older, a simplified way to alter their gender registration in their passport and other official documents. An official statement of an expert, affirming that a person wishes to have the gender marker changed in accordance with their gender identity will be sufficient in order to change one’s gender in official documents.

Under the current Dutch law the gender of a person can only be changed in their official documents after obligatory and often unwanted sterilization and gender modification operations, followed by judicial permission. This leads to many transgender people living with official documents that do not correspond with their gender identity.

TNN and COC advocated many years for the new law. After adoption by the parliament last April, the bill faced fierce resistance by senators who criticized the bill because it aims to lower the minimum age for gender reassignment to 16 years old. Some senators even argued that the sterilization requirement should be upheld in order to avoid problems with parental law. In the end, however, a great majority in the Senate approved the bill by individual voting.

Carolien van de Lagemaat (chair of TNN) and Tanja Ineke (chair of COC Netherlands) point to the many problems transgender people face under the current law due to the fact that their official documents often do not match their gender identity. For example, as COC and TNN point out, transgender people face problems on a daily basis while applying for a new job, showing ID, using health care, and using public transport.

Human rights bodies such as the Council of Europe and the United Nations have reprimanded the Netherlands over the current transgender law and insisted on a modification of the law. Human Rights Watch issued a report on the human rights violations that the current law entails. According to these organizations the law infringes the right to bodily integrity, the right to privacy and the right to found a family. Within Europe, Germany, Austria and Portugal already have laws similar to the new Dutch transgender law.

TNN and COC Netherlands have successfully lobbied for an evaluation of the law by the Parliament within three years. 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. For instance, TNN and COC argue that there should be no minimum age and that the ‘expert statement’ should no longer be required, as is already the case in Argentina.

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