Research • 19 Jan 2018
New law on gender identity. Researchers from ISCTE-IUL explain its implications
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The draft law on gender identity is under debate with several experts, of different areas, being heard. Carla Moleiro, a clinical psychologist and director of CIS-IUL, and Sandra Saleiro, a sociologist and researcher at CIES-IUL, explain the implications of the intended change and improvements to the current law, directed at guaranteeing individual rights.

As can be read in the project report The Gender Identity Law of 2016, the law in force, Law no. 7/2011 of March 15, 'which created the procedure for changing gender and first name in the civil registry code and made the seventeenth amendment to the Civil Registry Code, aimed at promoting gender equality in Portugal, was pointed out as an innovative measure in the European context. This law regulates the procedure for change of gender in the civil registry and corresponding change of first name.' 

Three proposals for the "new" Gender Identity Act, currently in the specialised debate in Parliament, are under discussion, which seek to eliminate the need for a clinical report certifying the diagnosis of Gender Dysphoria for gender reassignment in the civil registry, and extend the possibility of submission of applications to persons aged 16 years old.

Sandra Saleiro

Under the watchful eye of the experts on the subject, who gave us their testimony on these proposals, we sought to clarify what this new law should guarantee, and what limits are effectively under discussion. The view of both experts is similar on self-determination, age limit, and gender definition that goes beyond the female and male dichotomy. The determination of gender must depend on self-will and not on medical recognition, as it is a matter of individual freedom. This would be an 'important milestone in the process of acquisition of rights of persons with minority gender identities in Portugal', as Sandra Saleiro points out. However, the sociologist adds that if the absence of a reference to a type of registration outside binary categories, for example, gender neutral or gender x (...) is to be maintained, the new law will not be able to cover the diversity of identities and expressions of gender that can be found in our society, part of which is not embodied in the two traditional gender categories.' 

Carla Moleiro

Likewise, the experts are consensual in arguing that self-determination should occur below the current age limit, which is 18 years. Carla Moleiro states that ‘the research project that Nuno Pinto and I carried out here at ISCTE-IUL concluded that it is advantageous to allow access to legal recognition of gender identity before the age of 18. We think that this change would be important because pre-adolescence and adolescence are critical periods and with increased risks for this population.’ Although, according to Sandra Saleiro, 'in one (of the proposals) children and young people below the age of 16 are excluded from the possibility of access to legal recognition, so the scope of the final proposal is uncertain.' 

Carla Moleiro noted, concerning intersex, that 'the proposal envisages that medical procedures, in situations which do not endanger the life or health of infants or children, are not permitted and take place only after their decision in terms of their gender identity.'

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