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Court rules against Italy in transgender name human rights dispute

Human rights judges have declared Italy was wrong to stop a transgender person from changing her male forename prior to surgery.

The European court accepted that Italy had breached the applicant’s right to a private life.

In today’s Chamber judgment1 in the case of S.V. v. Italy (application no. 55216/08) the European Court of Human Rights held, unanimously, that there had been:

a violation of Article 8 (right to respect for private and family life) of the European Convention on Human Rights.

Under Article 41 (just satisfaction), the court held that the finding of a violation constituted in itself sufficient just satisfaction for the non-pecuniary damage sustained by S.V. It further held that Italy was to pay the applicant 2,500 euros (EUR) in respect of costs and expenses.

The case concerned the Italian authorities’ refusal to authorise a transgender person with a female appearance to change her male forename, on the grounds that no final judicial ruling had been given confirming gender reassignment.

In May 2001 the Rome District Court authorised S.V. to undergo gender reassignment surgery.

However, under the legislation in force at the time, she was unable to change her forename until the court confirmed that the surgery had been performed and gave a final ruling on her gender identity, which it did on 10 October 2003.

The court observed at the outset that this issue came entirely within the scope of the right to respect for private life. It went on to find that S.V.’s inability to obtain a change of forename over a period of two and a half years, on the grounds that the gender transition process had not been completed by means of gender reassignment surgery, amounted to a failure by the state to comply with its positive obligation to secure the applicant’s right to respect for her private life.

In the court’s view, the rigid nature of the judicial procedure for recognising the gender identity of transgender persons, as in force at the time, had left S.V. – whose physical appearance and social identity had long been female – for an unreasonable period of time in an anomalous position apt to engender feelings of vulnerability, humiliation and anxiety.

Lastly, the court observed that the legislation had been amended in 2011, with the result that a second court ruling was no longer required and amendment of the civil-status records could now be ordered by the judge in the decision authorising the gender reassignment surgery.

 

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