French appeals court refuses to recognise third gender

22nd March 2016, Comments 0 comments

A French appeals court has overturned a landmark decision to recognise a third gender for a person born with both male and female genitalia, court documents showed Tuesday.

A lower court ruled in August last year that a hermaphrodite plaintiff who was designated male at birth, could use the term "neutral gender" on personal official documents.

However, magistrates at the Orleans appeals court southwest of Paris ruled that to accept the plaintiff's request "would require recognising, in the guise of a simple rectification of his personal records, the existence of another sexual category."

Mila Petkova, a lawyer for the plaintiff, said her client was "very disappointed" with the court's decision.

"This is an additional violence inflicted on my client," she said, adding she would take the case to France's court of last resort and if necessary to the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg.

According to his doctor the plaintiff, 64, was born with a "rudimentary vagina" and a "micropenis" but no testicles.

He approached the courts as he did not want such an "unequivocal" designation as male or female.

The prosecutor who appealed the initial decision said he did so not because he fiercely opposed it but because he felt a higher ruling was necessary in a case that has "collided with current laws".

The appeals court said it was necessary to find "a fair balance between the protection of the state of persons, which is a public issue, and respect for the private lives of people with a variation of sexual development."

"This fair balance would allow either for personal records which mention no sexual category, or the modification of the gender which has been assigned to them when it is not in line with their physical appearance and social behaviour."

The magistrates said that as the plaintiff was married and he and his wife had adopted a child, a request to change his civil status "contradicted his physical appearance and social behaviour."

In an interview with the daily newspaper 20 Minutes last year, the plaintiff said he felt he was "neither a man nor a woman."

Several countries including Germany, Australia, New Zealand and Nepal officially recognise a third gender on official forms.

India, Pakistan and Bangladesh also have an official third gender designation for so-called hijra citizens who do not identify as male or female.

© 2016 AFP

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