Germany has become the first European nation to allow babies born with intersex characteristics to be officially registered as neither male nor female. The new law became effective November 1, reports Al Jazeera.
Experts estimate one in 1,500 to 2,000 births in Germany result in a baby of indeterminate gender or both male and female gender features. Under new legislation, the field for gender can be left blank on birth certificates, effectively creating a category for indeterminate sex in the public record.
Germany will soon also allow the gender field on passports be filled with an "X" instead of "M" or "F." The new German law is intended to remove pressure on parents to quickly make a decision about controversial sex assignment surgeries for newborns, but some rights advocates said it does not go far enough.
German intersex activists and some policy makers say the new law does not go far enough, adds Der Spiegel.
Lucie Veith, chair of the German Association of Intersex People ... fears the law may have downsides, like if children are "forced out of the closet" in schools and left vulnerable to discrimination. Her organization is also calling for the German government to take the reform even further. They want to ban doctors and parents from surgically assigning children their sex at birth. Veith says such operations are mostly medically unnecessary. ...
Many intersex adults experienced painful and traumatic treatments in their childhood, and controversial medical interventions are still common. After a vaginoplasty, or the surgical construction of a vagina, for example, dilators have to be inserted on a regular basis for the rest of the person's life to prevent the vaginal walls from collapsing. "I've heard from many who experienced that as a kind of routine sexual invasion," Veith says.
Germany follows the lead of several nations in Asia and Oceania, according to the BBC.
Australians have had the option of selecting "x" as their gender - meaning indeterminate, unspecified or intersex - on passport applications since 2011. A similar option was introduced for New Zealanders in 2012.
In South Asia, Bangladesh has offered an "other" gender category on passport applications since 2011. Nepal began recognising a third gender on its census forms in 2007 while Pakistan made it an option on national identity cards in 2011. India added a third gender category to voter lists in 2009.
It remains unclear what impact the new legislation will have on marriage and partnership laws. Unlike the neighboring nations of Belgium, France and the Netherlands, same-sex marriage is limited by law to "one man, one woman" in Germany. Civil partnerships are reserved for same-sex couples.