People could previously opt out of a gender on their certificate — but that’s not quite the same.
On Wednesday, Germany’s highest court ruled that people must be allowed to register a third gender on birth certificates, the BBC reported.
The ruling was issued by the Federal Constitutional Court in response to a case brought forth by a person who is registered as a female, but whose chromosome composition is neither male nor female, according to the BBC.
The plaintiff in the case had previously tried to change their gender from “female” to “inter/diverse” or “diverse,” the Associated Press reported; however officials denied their request because current German law only provides two registration options: male or female.
In 2013, Germany began allowing people to leave the gender category on birth certificates blank to prevent parents of intersex children from feeling the need to subject their babies to gender-assigning surgery. By opting not to choose a gender on birth certificates, parents would effectively choose “indeterminate” as their child’s gender, according to NPR.
But the plaintiff in this case, called Vanja by the advocacy group Dritte Option (Third Option), argued that the restrictive registration options were a violation of their personal rights.
For Vanja, who has fought this legal battle for the past three years, and other intersex people in Germany, this is a hard earned win.
Just last year, a German court ruled against Vanja and rejected the creation of a third gender option, Reuters reported. But on Wednesday, the Federal Constitutional Court ruled that the German constitution protects people against gender-based discrimination and protects sexual identity, including “the sexual identity of those people who can be assigned neither to the male nor the female sex,” according to the AP.
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According to the United Nations’ “Free & Equal” campaign, “intersex people are born with sex characteristics (including genitals, gonads, and chromosome patterns) that do not fit typical binary notions of male or female bodies.” Experts say up to 1.7% of the world’s population is born with intersex characteristics, which are biological traits, not characteristics related to gender identity or sexual orientation.
Germany will not be the first country to recognize intersex people on birth certificates. Last December, Sara Kelly Keenan became the first person in the US — widely reported as the first person worldwide — to be issued a birth certificate with the gender designation “intersex,” CNN reported.