Hungary exploits emergency powers to ban trans people from legally changing gender

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Hungary has published a bill that would make it impossible for people to legally change their gender.

The government made the move on International Transgender Day of Visibility.

It came just a day after Hungary’s parliament voted the government sweeping emergency powers to manage the COVID-19 pandemic.

Opponents say the powers allow the government to shut down democracy in the country and rule by decree. Critics also say it allows them to jail independent journalists. There is no time limit for when the emergency powers will end.

However Prime Minister Viktor Orbán promised to use his extraordinary new powers ‘proportionately and rationally’.

Despite this, Deputy Prime Minister Zsolt Semjén has submitted an omnibus bill that includes a ban on legally changing your gender.

No name or gender changes

The bill changes the Civil Registry Act to say ‘gender at birth’ will be the ‘the biological sex determined by primary sexual characteristics and chromosomes’.

This ‘gender at birth’ will be put into the civil registry, and the law will forbid people from changing the registry.

All other official documents – including ID cards, driving licences and passports – take their information from the civil registry.

So, under the law, it will be impossible to legally change your gender in Hungary. Likewise, transgender people will no longer be able to change their first names to ones that match their true gender.

It is not clear how this will affect people who have already changed gender in the country.

The bill says (translated):

‘Given that completely changing one’s biological gender is impossible, it is necessary to lay it down in law that it cannot be changed in the civil registry either.’

It comes just two weeks after the European Court of Human Rights addressed the case of 23 transgender people in Hungary. They have not been able to change their name or legal gender since 2018.

The court gave the government and trans applicants until 4 June to come to an agreement. If not, it said it would rule on the case.

Orbán is ‘exploiting emergency measures’

Transvanilla Transgender Association was supporting the 23 people through their court case.

It says: ‘Transvanilla firmly condemns the bill. It denies trans people the right to gender recognition, violating their right to self-determination and countering national and international human rights standards.

‘Our association calls on the government to reconsider the proposal.

‘As we have previously reported, Hungary is one of the few EU member states, where no proper legal measures are in place to regulate legal gender recognition.

‘Although trans people have been able to change their gender marker and name since 2003, there is no comprehensive legislation that sets out the procedure.’

Instead Transvanilla wants Hungary to allow people to self-determine their gender. It says the procedure should be ‘quick, transparent and accessible’.

Meanwhile LGBT+ organization ILGA-Europe has also expressed alarm.

It said: ‘We are very concerned to see Hungarian PM Orbán table legislation outlawing legal gender recognition. 

‘Exploiting emergency measures should not be used to bypass court decisions and permanently undermine the human rights of trans citizens!’

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Author: Tris Reid-Smith