December 19, 2013 | by Michael K. Lavers
Dutch Senate approves transgender rights bill
Koen van Dijk, Philip Tijsma, COC Nederland, gay rights, Amsterdam, the Netherlands, Holland, gay news, Washington Blade

COC Nederland Executive Director Koen van Dijk, right, and Philip Tijsma, the organization’ communications director, at their Amsterdam office on Sept. 3. (Washington Blade photo by Michael K. Lavers)

The Dutch Senate on Dec. 17 overwhelmingly approved a bill that would allow transgender people to legally change their gender on their birth certificates and other official documents without undergoing sterilization and sex-reassignment surgery.

Transgender Network Netherlands Chair Carolien van de Lagemaat and COC Nederland Chair Tanja Ineke described the vote as “a victory for transgender people in the Netherlands.” The two groups also noted trans people under current Dutch law can only legally change their gender on official documents after “obligatory and often unwanted sterilization and gender modification operations.”

“It’s an invasion of rights,” COC Nederland Executive Director Koen van Dijk told the Washington Blade in September during an interview in his Amsterdam office. “It’s the integrity of the body; it’s privacy.”

The Council of Europe and the U.N. are among the international organizations that have urged the Dutch government to allow trans people to legally change their gender without sterilization and SRS.

The main chamber of the Dutch Parliament earlier this year approved the measure after COC Nederland, the Transgender Network Netherlands and other Dutch LGBT advocacy groups lobbied the country’s lawmakers for years to support it. Germany, Austria and Portugal have also passed similar trans rights laws.

Argentina President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner in 2012 signed a law that allows trans Argentinians to legally change their gender on official documents without surgery and an affidavit from a doctor or another medical provider.

The Dutch statute eliminates the need for a person to petition a judge to approve their request to legally change their gender. They will still need to obtain a statement from an “expert” to fulfill their request.

The law does not apply to people under 16 years of age.

“The two organizations will keep up the pressure and advocate for the law to be further amended,” said van de Lagemaat and Ineke. “They argue that there should be no minimum age and that the ‘expert statement’ should no longer be required, as it is the case in Argentina.”

The Dutch law is scheduled to take effect on July 1.

Michael K. Lavers has been a staff writer for the Washington Blade since May 2012. The passage of Maryland's same-sex marriage law, the HIV/AIDS epidemic, the burgeoning LGBT rights movement in Latin America and the consecration of gay New Hampshire Bishop V. Gene Robinson are among the many stories he has covered since his career began in 2002. Follow Michael

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