By Rachel Savage
LONDON, May 19 (Openly) - Hungary's parliament voted Tuesday to ban transgender people from changing their gender on identity documents, in a move that LGBT+ advocates said was creating panic among trans people who feared an increase in discrimination and attacks.
The legislature voted 133 to 57 to replace the Hungarian word "nem", meaning sex or gender, with "sex at birth" on birth, marriage and death certificates, which could expose trans people to harassment if their documents do not match their appearance.
"The state's decision ... to register children's biological sex in their birth certificates does not affect men's and women's right to freely experience and exercise their identities as they wish," the government's communications office said.
"In no way does the relevant section of the bill that some people criticise prevent any person from exercising their fundamental rights arising from their human dignity or from living according their identity," it said in emailed comments.
Hungary's right-wing Prime Minister Viktor Orban, in power since 2010, was re-elected in 2018 and promised to "build a new era" with major cultural changes in the ex-communist country. Parliament's speaker has equated gay adoption with paedophilia.
It is possible to legally change gender in all European Union countries bar Cyprus, advocacy group Transgender Europe says, despite growing criticism of trans rights as an attack on traditional gender roles by far-right and religious groups.
Trans people in Hungary have been effectively unable to change the sex on their identity documents since 2018, according to LGBT+ rights advocates, who said there were already multiple court cases underway challenging that.
"We have no words to describe what we feel," Tina Korlos Orban, vice president of advocacy group Transvanilla Transgender Association, told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.
"People who haven't had suicidal thoughts for decades now are having them. People are in panic, people want to escape from Hungary to somewhere else where they can get their gender recognised."
The government said the amendment resolved uncertainties being faced by courts and authorities in interpreting the word sex, which was not defined in the previous registry law.
Tamas Dombos, a board member of the Hungarian LGBT Alliance, said activists would lobby the president, an ally of Orban's, not to sign the bill into law.
"(The government) just doesn't care about how it impacts the life of trans people ... they could never provide any rational argument for why this bill is needed," said Dombos.
Advocates said they would challenge the law, which would also affect intersex people born neither clearly male nor female, in court in Hungary and at the European Court of Human Rights if necessary.
(Reporting by Rachel Savage @rachelmsavage; Editing by Katy Migiro. Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers the lives of people around the world who struggle to live freely or fairly. Visit http://news.trust.org)
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