Marriage or Gender Recognition? Tough Choice for Trans* Woman

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The European Court of Human Rights has ruled against a transgender women who wishes to have her gender legally recognised.

Heli, 49, is unable to have her gender legally recognised unless she has her marriage of 18 years converted into a civil partnership, due to Finland’s ban on same sex marriages.

Finland’s legal requirements for gender recognition for transgender people include psychiatric assessment and sterilisation, both of which Heli has already undergone.

Amnesty International has made the case that these laws are discriminatory. Jezerca Tigani, Deputy Director of Amnesty International’s Europe and Central Asia Programme, made these comments on the case.

“With this deeply disappointing and unjust ruling, the European Court of Human Rights is condoning Finland’s repressive laws affecting transgender people and reinforcing harmful gender stereotypes,”

“These laws are disproportionate and discriminatory. They are forcing Heli to choose between legal recognition of her gender identity and staying married with her partner. Having to choose one over the other is a violation of her rights.”

The European Court of Human Rights has previously recognized that an individual’s ability to obtain recognition of their gender identity is “one of the most basic essentials of self-determination”.

“This case highlights the need to overhaul Finland’s laws so that others like Heli can obtain legal recognition and are not forced to undergo such an ordeal,” said Jezerca Tigani.

“The discriminatory laws preventing same-sex couples from marrying should not be used to deny Heli the enjoyment of her right to private and family life.”

Heli made these comments to Amnesty International:

“I was not reborn as a woman and I am not remarrying my spouse. We have been married since 1996 and in that marriage, a child was born. If I can live with this, society should be able to.” she said.

Same sex marriage bans are proving problematic for transgender people both abroad and in Australia. In Victoria, a transgender man had his marriage to his female partner invalidated due to his birth certificate identifying him as female.

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