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Gender Recognition in the Rest of the World

Starting with Argentina in 2012, over 30 countries, regions, and states across 4 continents have adopted self-declaration laws.

These areas have a total population of over 275,000,000, which means that more than a quarter of a billion people around the world today live in places with a self-declaration system for legal gender recognition.

More countries are also in the process of introducing self-declaration laws, such as Spain.

The UK (including Scotland) have fallen very far behind other countries in Europe and across the world in improving legal gender recognition for trans people.

If this Bill is passed, Scotland would move closer to the best practice of countries like Malta, Iceland and Argentina when it comes to upholding the human rights of trans people.

The GRR Bill would not just bring us in line with some of the world leaders on gender recognition, but also some of our closest neighbours, such as Norway, Ireland, Denmark, Ireland, Belgium, and Luxembourg.


According to ILGA Europe’s Rainbow Europe Index 2022 released in May, the UK is ranked 14th in Europe in terms of legal rights for LGBT people, dropping from 10th place last year. ILGA gives the UK just a 53% score marking it as one of the lowest countries in western Europe – particularly shocking as we were at the top of the rankings back in 2015.

When we look at rankings based on legal gender recognition alone, the UK does even worse, sitting at 21st place, next to Slovakia and Russia.

International Human Rights Standards

As well as best practice from other countries, the proposals in the Bill would bring us closer in line with evolving human rights standards in this area.

The UN has been influential in establishing best practice for legal gender recognition, with their Independent Expert on protection against violence and discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity recommending in 2018 that legal gender recognition procedures should:

“Be based on self-determination by the applicant, be a simple administrative process, [and] not require applicants to fulfil abusive requirements, such as medical certification, surgery, treatment, sterilization or divorce.”

In 2015, the Council of Europe passed Resolution 2048, which implored member states to take a range of measures to counteract discrimination against trans people. Section 6.2 concerns improvements to legal gender recognition, and says that states should:

“Develop quick, transparent and accessible procedures, based on self-determination, for changing the name and registered sex of transgender people on birth certificates, identity cards, passports, educational certificates and other similar documents; make these procedures available for all people who seek to use them, irrespective of age, medical status, financial situation or police record”

The Resolution also states that legal gender recognition:

  • should not require sterilisation, any other medical treatment, or a mental health diagnosis;
  • should not affect an applicant’s ability to remain in an existing marriage, or affect the rights of their spouse and children;
  • should include provisions for a third gender option; and
  • should “ensure the best interests of the child are a primary consideration in all decisions concerning children”

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