On 22 January 2018, the Russian Ministry of Health’s order approving a form of medical certificate for change of trans persons’ gender marker, as well as a procedure for issuing such a certificate, was published. The order will come into force on 2 February 2018.
There has been no legally established legal gender recognition procedure in Russia for many years. According to the federal law, in order to change their gender marker, a trans person has to submit a “medical certificate on gender/sex change” to civil registry office. The duty to approve a form for this medical certificate was assigned to the Ministry of Health as long ago as in 1998, however, the Ministry has neglected this duty for twenty years.
Throughout this period, it was for individual civil registry servants to decide if a person’s documents could be changed, and excessive requirements violating applicants’ human rights have been posed frequently. For example, gender reassignment surgeries could be required, or a person having minor children, could be refused. In many cases, in order to get legal gender recognition, transgender persons had to resort to a lengthy and complicated judicial procedure which did not necessarily result in a judgment in favour of the applicant.
A draft order approving the form of the “medical certificate on gender/sex change” and the procedure for its issuance was published for a public discussion in October 2017. This document became a matter of concern for trans community – mostly, because of the mandatory one-and-a-half-year psychiatrist observation, without which it would not be allowed to change documentation. Apart from that, the draft order used a term “sexual re-orientation” – a term that is not mentioned by any other orders or laws affecting trans persons’ rights.
Many trans human rights organisations, including the Transgender Legal Defense Project, submitted to the Russian Ministry of Health their comments and proposals to amend the text of the draft.
Fortunately, most of the concerns have been addressed by the order’s drafters.
First, the order does not require a mandatory period for psychiatrist observation before legal gender recognition. Second, it neither require trans people to undergo any medical procedures, such as hormone replacement therapy or surgery, in order to get their gender marker changed. Third, it does not impose any restrictions on legal gender recognition for those trans people who are married or have underage children. Last but not least, according to the order, a referral to a medical board that establishes a person’s “sexual re-orientation” is to be issued if they are diagnosed with “transsexualism”. That makes the criteria for establishing a “sexual re-orientation” more transparent.
“We welcome the adoption of the Ministry of Health’s order in its final version, and we believe that its entry into force will significantly improve the situation of trans people in Russia,” says Tatiana Glushkova, Transgender Legal Defense Project’s Legal Programme Coordinator, “The document establishes a transparent procedure for legal gender recognitionwhich would allow trans people to change their documentation without applying to court. In addition, the adoption of the order would bring the Russian legislation in accordance with the European Court of Human Rights’ case law.
At the same time, we regretfully note that the order did not reflect either the global depathologisationprocess, or the forthcoming reform of the International Classification of Diseases. The key actors who take decisions regarding trans persons’ legal gender recognition, are still psychiatrists. Transgender people will still face all the challenges coming from the psychiatrist diagnosis.”
Transgender Legal Defense Project is organizing now a system of events to consult trans people on the new procedure and its implications.