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COSTA RICA
For respect and recognition of transgender persons
George Rodríguez
9/5/2017
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Bill guarantees the right of trans persons to gender identity and to have a name they identify with.

Costa Rica’s sexually diverse community is engaged in yet another battle in its relentless struggle for rights: respect and legal recognition of transgender persons’ name choice. Trans men and women — who, in terms of discrimination, are the worst off within the diverse population —, feel their birth names do not usually suit their true gender, the one they identify with, and therefore they should be allowed to make the change –and that it be legally recognized.

The situation so far has been that, on their identity card (CI), their birth name is the one considered as legal, while the name of their preference is added under the definition of “conocido como” (“known as”), although after a 2010 legal ruling, trans persons are allowed to appear, in their CI photograph, according to their true gender.

Some three trans persons have actually succeeded in having their names changed, but only through a judge’s ruling, which implies a lengthy as well as complex and expensive legal procedure.

The context, in which a judge’s empathy with the request is a key element, could change if a draft bill, introduced last year at the Legislative Assembly — this Central American nation’s single-chamber parliament —, is passed despite the announced opposition of some of the most conservative among the 57 legislators.

In the first of its 14 articles, the text guarantees “all persons” the “right to a gender identity,” which includes the rights to “recognition of their gender identity,” to “free personal development according to their gender identity,” and to “be treated according to their gender identity” and how it appears on identity documents.

As defined in the Bill on Recognition of the Rights to Gender Identity and Equality before the Law gender identity is the “internal and individual experience of gender as each person feels it, which could fit or not with the assigned sex at birth, including the personal body experience.”

This may include modifying the persons’ appearance or organs “through pharmacological, surgical or other means, if this is a free choice,” it explains.

“It will also include other gender expressions, such as clothing, ways of speaking and manners,” the text further states.

In one of its key contents, the bill guarantees the right of all persons “to request the registry rectification of their sex and the change of name and image when they do not coincide with the self-perceived gender identity.”

Few requirements
The only requirements for requesting the name change are to certify the minimum age of 18, submit a written petition at the Registro civil, state the new name as well as the new gender, and once the requirements are fulfilled, a new birth certificate and a new CI will be issued according to the changes.

Regarding the need for “dignified treatment” for transgender persons, the bill states that “the gender identity adopted by persons using a name other than that entered on their national identity document must be respected” and used when requesting services or doing any other formality in both the private and public spheres.

Another key provision states that “in all circumstances in which the person has to be named in public, only the chosen name which respects the adopted and legally recognized gender identity must be used.”

According to the proposed legislation, “every rule, regulation or procedure must respect the human right to people’s gender identity. No rule, regulation or procedure may limit, restrict, exclude or suppress the exercise” of that right.

“All rules must always be interpreted and enforced in favor of access” to that right, it also points out.

The bill passed its first test at the congressional Human Rights Special Committee, the majority of whose members voted in favor of sending it for debate and vote by the parliament’s plenary.

“The initiative is aimed at eliminating the inconsistency between the [identity] Card and the gender of transsexual persons,” ruling Partido Acción Ciudadana (Citizens Action Party) congresswoman Marcela Guerrero told reporters immediately after the committee’s June 7 decision.

“Although they’re allowed to adopt a name more in accordance to their gender, these persons don’t forfeit the responsibilities and rights they obtained with their previous name, the one given at birth,” the legislator, a committee member, explained.

No date for debate
In coinciding statements, leftist Frente Amplio (Broad Front) legislator Patricia Mora, also in the committee, said that “this bill eliminates that inconsistency between the information that appears on the identity document and the way the human being assumes herself or himself,” and in so doing “it respects the human rights| doctrine.”

“We recognize and celebrate the protection that’s given to self-perceived gender identity, to people requesting their [identity] card,” added Mora, the political group’s president.

But the initiative is up against tenacious opposition from conservative legislators, mostly those in what has come to be known as “the evangelical bloc,” who claim that, if passed, the bill could open the way to legalizing same-sex marriage, which they abhor.

“Any moment, a person can choose to change their name and get married,” evangelical Partido Restauración Nacional (National Restoration Party) congressman Fabricio Alvarado told local media.

“It’s a horror of a project,” added the party’s only legislator.

And according to Abelino Esquivel, head of the also evangelical Partido Renovación Costarricense (Costa Rican Renewal Party), “no law is required for that. It’s not a human right but a legal one.”

Esquivel warned that if the project reached the plenary, he would review the text to “see if there are camouflaged phrases, because those [sexual diversity] groups are experts in that.”

After passage by the Human Rights committee, the draft bill, promoted by several trans rights organizations — including Transvida — has no date yet for plenary debate.

According to Dayana Hernández, president of Transvida, “the name is the introduction, the calling card, and it’s denied to us. What do we, transgender persons, want? The right to a name that identifies us, period.” —Latinamerica Press.


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Dayana Hernández (center), president of Transvida, defends the right of trans people to gender identity / Hivos
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