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Spain set to approve trans rights bill

Spanish lawmakers were set to adopt Thursday a contentious bill allowing anyone over 16 to change gender on their ID card, even as similar measures elsewhere have struggled with divisions over the complexities of the issue.

The legislation would make Spain one of the few nations to allow people to change their gender on their national identity card with a simple declaration.

In Europe, Denmark was the first country to grant such a right in 2014.

Thursday’s expected vote in parliament is the last hurdle for legislation that has caused a major rift within Spain’s fractious left-wing coalition, as the country gears up for a general election later this year.

The legislation is a flagship project of the equality ministry, which is held by Podemos, the radical left-wing junior partner in the Socialist-led coalition.

“Spain is a country that can be proud today because it advances rights and becomes a better society,” Equality Minister Irene Montero, a member of Podemos, said Thursday during a radio interview ahead of the vote.

Until now, adults in Spain could only request the change with a medical report attesting to gender dysphoria and proof of hormonal treatment for two years. Minors needed judicial authorisation.

The law set to be passed Thursday drops all such requirements, with those aged 14 to 16 allowed to apply if their parents or legal guardians agree.

Those aged 12 and 13 will require a judge’s permission to make the move.

Supporters say the need for laws to safeguard trans rights has taken on a new urgency with the sharp rise in people reporting gender dysphoria — the distress caused by a mismatch between a person’s biological sex and the gender with which they identify.

– Politically divisive –

But in recent years, several European nations which pioneered transgender legislation have had second thoughts.

Among those who have reimposed restrictions are Sweden and Finland, while in the United Kingdom, Westminster last month blocked a Scottish trans rights law similar to Spain’s.

The bitter dispute over transgender issues played a role in Wednesday’s shock resignation of Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon.

Although she had championed the law, Sturgeon became entangled in a major row over transgender women entering all-female prisons, following a case that sparked public outcry.

A year ago, Sweden decided to halt hormone therapy for minors except in very rare cases.

In December, it limited mastectomies for girls wanting to transition to a research setting, citing the need for “caution”.

The decision followed moves by Finland, which decided to restrict gender reassignment hormone treatment for similar reasons in 2020.

In Spain, the bill generated deep political and ideological divisions within its left-wing coalition government, driving a wedge between activists in its powerful feminist lobby and LGBTQ equality campaigners.

– ‘An important step’ –

Campaigners said Spain was setting an example that would encourage others to follow suit.

“Spain is taking an important step with the approval of this law, because it will encourage other countries to follow our example that human rights must be above any ideology,” said Uge Sangil, head of FELGBTI+, the largest LGBT organisation in Spain.

But other voices have warned that gender self-determination could spell difficulties ahead that will need addressing. They include Reem Alsalem, the UN rapporteur on violence against women.

“Nations need to reflect on whether someone with a male biological sex, once they have acquired their female gender certificate, should be able to access all programmes and categories designed for biological women,” she told El Mundo daily earlier this month.

At Thursday’s session, Spanish lawmakers will also pass another law granting paid medical leave to women suffering from severe period pain.