In a Tuesday ruling, the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) reprimanded Romania for not guaranteeing the rights of transgender people. The Strasbourg-based court found that Romania has violated Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights which upholds the “right to respect for private and family life.” The ECHR stated that there is no administrative procedure in Romania that allows transgender people to change their personal information, more specifically, their first names, the entry regarding their gender, or the first digit of their personal number (which also indicates gender).
The lawsuit against Romania was initiated by two transgender people. The applicants, named X and Y by the ECHR, are Romanian nationals who were born in 1976 and 1982 respectively and were both registered as female at birth.
X requested Romanian courts to authorize a gender reassignment from female to male, an administrative change of forename and their personal digital identity code, and also to order the first district council of Bucharest to make the changes in the civil status register and issue a birth certificate indicating the applicant’s new forename and male gender. According to the ECHR’s statement, X presented three medical certificates in support of the request, confirming their gender identity disorder. The Bucharest District Court dismissed the action in 2014, and then in 2015, the Bucharest Court of Appeal endorsed the ruling of the court of first instance. In the meantime, X moved to Britain in 2014 and obtained a male forename.
Y was issued a new Romanian identity card in 2018 indicating a male forename and managed to register their gender as male, but only after undergoing surgery. As ECHR detailed, Y brought an action in the District Court of Bucharest in 2011 against the local council of the third district of Bucharest. Y had asked for a legal authorization to undergo female-to-male gender reassignment surgery, plus a change of forename on the relevant administrative documents. In 2013, the court stated that once the gender reassignment surgery had been performed, the applicant would be entitled to apply to the authorities for a change of forename. In 2014, Y brought a similar action in the Bucharest District Court but, this time, without requesting authorization for gender reassignment surgery. The District Court dismissed the action on the grounds that no gender reassignment surgery had been performed.
Y then appealed to the Bucharest County Court, which dismissed the appeal. In 2017, Y had two surgeries necessary for gender reassignment. Following the interventions, in 2017, the District Court of Bucharest finally admitted the request and authorized the change of forename and gender in their identity papers.
The ECHR noted in its statement that Romanian national courts presented the applicants with a dilemma: “Either they had to undergo surgery, or they had to forego recognition of their gender identity.” The court also said that Romania’s stance placed these two people in a situation of “vulnerability, humiliation, and anxiety.” Moreover, ECHR ruled that Romania must pay the two a total of EUR 15,000 in moral damages, EUR 9,755 in costs and EUR 1,153 in pecuniary damages.
The Bucharest-based civil society defending and promoting the rights of LGBTQ people also published a statement pointing out that gender conversion in a legal sense is highly problematic in Romania. According to ACCEPT, between 2006 and 2017, just 48 transgender individuals requested changes in their personal identification documents. Until now, they have hired lawyers and sued the competent municipality.
During court proceedings, they had to present medical documents, bring witnesses, and in some cases, even undergo forensic medical examinations. Moreover, in 32 of the cases, the courts ordered the applicants to undergo gender reassignment surgery, although these interventions are not currently performed safely in Romania. There is a need for an administrative procedure to make it possible to change gender data in personal documents based on the applicants’ declarations, underlined the ACCEPT association.
Title image: The ECHR ruled the rights of transgender people are not ensured in Romania. The image is an illustration