Today, the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) declared the requirement of permanent infertility in order to undergo gender reassignment surgery as incompatible with human rights. Transgender Europe welcomes this judgment and encourages Turkish lawmakers to act swiftly in order to grant trans people access to the medical treatment they need.
Facts of the case
The applicant Y.Y. is a trans man from Turkey who asked the local court for permission to undergo gender reassignment surgery in 2005. For the reason that he was not yet permanently infertile – before undergoing gender reassignment surgery leading to infertility – such permission was not granted.
In 2008, the applicant turned to the ECtHR claiming that his right to respect for private and family life (art. 8 ECHR) was violated by the Turkish legal provision that required him to be permanently infertile in order to undergo gender reassignment surgery (art. 40 Turkish Civil Code). Gender reassignment surgery is a pre-condition for obtaining legal gender recognition in Turkey, according to the same Article.
In 2013, Y.Y. presented his request for permission to undergo gender reassignment surgery again to the local court. This time, he was given the green light and the surgery was performed.
The European Court of Human Right´s judgment
The Court, in unanimity, decided that by barring Y.Y. from access to gender reassignment surgery for several years, Turkey violated his right to respect for private life. It also stated that making infertility a mandatory requirement for such medical treatment is not necessary in a democratic society and in breach of the Convention. The judges explicitly stated that they do not see a need for them to have a say on the applicant’s eventual access to a treatment leading to infertility. For the very reason, that his right to physical integrity does not allow for making such treatment a precondition for undergoing gender reassignment surgery.
“We are pleased that the court ruled out this absurd requirement for trans people in Turkey to get access to medical treatment that can significantly improve their quality of life. It is now up to Turkish lawmakers to swiftly change the civil code together with Turkish civil society” says Richard Köhler, Transgender Europe Senior Policy Officer.
Further, the Court reiterated the freedom to establish ones gender is an essential part of the right to self-determination.
Transgender Europe also welcomes the court’s examination of the many developments in Member States and on an international level in respect to trans people’s rights, particularly the removal of infertility or sterility requirements in legal gender recognition procedures.
“It is with great pleasure that we read the court’s careful examination of international and national trends against any forced sterilisation of trans people, not only as a requirement for undergoing medical treatment but also for obtaining legal gender recognition. The fact that four out of the seven judges would have liked the court to also consider the legality of forced sterilisation as requirement for legal gender recognition is an important sign for the trans community” adds Alecs Recher, lawyer and TGEU Co-Chair.
Read the Press Release of the European Court for Human Rights on YY v. Turkey.
Learn more about TGEU’s work on legal gender recognition at:
Watch our latest video on the nightmare of legal gender recognition in Europe:
Transgender Europe is a European human rights NGO working for the human rights and equality of all trans people. More Information: www.tgeu.org
Transgender or Trans is an umbrella term for people whose gender identity or expression differs from the sex assigned to them at birth.
TGEU Senior Policy Officer Richard Köhler is available for interviews and questions and can be reached at:
phone: +49 (0)177 65 31 518