By Brenna Hughes Neghaiwi
ZURICH, Dec 26 (Reuters) - People in Switzerland will be able to legally change gender by a visit to the civil registry office from Jan. 1, putting the country at the forefront of Europe's gender self-identification movement.
Switzerland joins Ireland, Belgium, Portugal and Norway as one of the few countries on the continent that allow a person to legally change gender without hormone therapy, medical diagnosis or further evaluation or bureaucratic steps.
Under the new rules written into Switzerland's civil code, anyone aged 16 and above who is not under legal guardianship will be able to adjust their gender and legal name by self-declaration at the civil registry office. Younger people and those under adult protection will require guardian consent.
This marks a change from the current set of regionally prescribed standards in Switzerland, which often require a certificate from a medical professional confirming an individual's transgender identity.
Some cantons - semi-autonomous regions in federal Switzerland - also require a person to undergo hormone treatment or anatomical transition in order to legally change gender, while, for a name change, proof could be required that the new name has already been unofficially in use for several years.
Switzerland, long known as socially conservative in the main, voted in September to legalise civil marriage and the right to adopt children for same-sex couples, one of the last countries in Western Europe to do so.
With the new gender change rules, Switzerland joins just two dozen countries worldwide aiming to decouple gender choice from medical procedures.
While some other European nations including Denmark, Greece and France have removed the requirement of medical procedures, including sex reassignment surgery, sterilisation or psychiatric evaluation, their rules require further steps or conditions.
Spain in June approved a draft bill allowing anyone over the age of 14 to change gender legally without a medical diagnosis or hormone therapy. Germany in 2018 became the first European government to introduce a third gender option but in June 2021 shot down two bills aiming to introduce gender self-identification. A new transgender member of parliament is hoping to address that.
(Reporting by Brenna Hughes Neghaiwi Editing by Mark Heinrich)