A German law takes effect today that establishes a third gender option for parents filling out birth certificates for new-born babies. They can choose “indeterminate” if the child shows both male and female characteristics.
The parents will do that by leaving the boxes for those genders blank. The law is meant to avoid the need to label an intersex baby as male or female before the child is old enough to decide for itself.
As Deutsche Welle reports:
“The law follows a 2012 report by the German Ethics Council, which advises the government and parliament on complex ethical issues.
“‘Many people who were subjected to a ‘normalizing’ operation in their childhood have later felt it to have been a mutilation and would never have agreed to it as adults,’ the report said.
“It described the necessity of being entered in the registry as ‘female’ or ‘male’ as being an unwarranted intrusion upon personal rights and the right to equal treatment.”
According to a spokesman for the German Interior Ministry, the new law “is not adequate to fully resolve the complex problems of intersex people.'”
“As many as one in 2,000 people have characteristics of both sexes,” the BBC reports.
Parents of those children are sometimes forced to make a quick decision on the infant’s gender, in part to satisfy federal registration laws.
“Sometimes surgery is done on the baby to turn its physical characteristics as far as possible in one direction or the other,” the BBC says.
While Germany is the first European country to offer a third-sex option, several other countries have adopted similar approaches in recent years.
Australia this year began to allow citizens to identify themselves as intersex on passports and other government documents. In 2009, citizens of both India and Pakistan also gained new rights to identify their gender.