Slovaks near vote on banning legal recognition for transgender people

by Reuters
Friday, 19 May 2023 08:58 GMT

Slovakia's President Zuzana Caputova poses for a group photo with newly appointed members of the Slovak government during the cabinet's inauguration at the Presidential Palace in Bratislava, Slovakia, May 15, 2023. REUTERS/Radovan Stoklasa

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The proposed legal change follows a similar law adopted in fellow EU member Hungary in 2020

May 18 (Reuters) - Slovakia's parliament is expected to vote soon on a legal change that would make it impossible for transgender people to change their gender on official documents, removing legal recognition that has been in place for over half a century.

The proposal, which sailed through a first reading in March, would allow change in gender on documents only on the basis of a genetic test showing it had been wrongly identified - blocking transgender people from making the change.

The amendment from conservative lawmakers follows a similar law adopted in fellow EU member Hungary in 2020. It has sparked outcry from human rights groups and would almost certainly be challenged at the constitutional court.

It comes to a vote as Slovakia nears an early election in September amid political turmoil. A caretaker government was installed this week.

At present, transgender people can change their names and surnames - which have different endings in Slovak for men and women - as well as gender and birth number on ID cards.

Under the amendment, transgender people could still change their names but not the other data.

"A person ... would have, for example, male gender in documents, but at the same time could still change name and surname to female," said Martin Macko, executive director at Iniciativa Inakost, a civic group for LGBTI rights.

"It would be a modern-day Jewish star... They could be identified in documents, for example by employers. That is of course absolutely unacceptable."

Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights Dunja Mijatovic urged lawmakers last month to reject the change.

The Slovak psychiatric society said that, apart from transgender people, there were also medical conditions where genetic tests do not indicate gender correctly.

Authors of the amendment did not respond to requests for comment.

Slovakia's constitution recognises marriage only between men and women, and parliament narrowly rejected a proposal in 2020 to make abortions more difficult.

Final reading of the bill, which won 87 out of 150 votes in its first reading, may come by next week.

Approval could trigger a veto by liberal President Zuzana Caputova, possibly blocking a re-vote until the election.

Macko said he believed the Constitutional Court would strike the change down.

"This is such a clear matter that I believe the Constitutional Court would not hesitate," he said. "...We have the advantage over Hungary that we still have an independent Constitutional Court."

(Reporting by Jan Lopatka in Prague; Editing by Nick Macfie)
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