Third Gender Option, Germany will become the first European country to recognize indeterminate sex by allowing babies born with no clear gender-determining anatomy to be put on the birth register without a “male” or “female” classification.
The new regulation, which takes effect from Nov. 1, stems from a study by the German Ethics Council into intersexuality that concluded that the rights of intersex individuals against irreversible medical interventions should be better protected.
“If a child cannot be designated male or female, then they should be entered on the birth register without such a status,” the new law states.
According to 2007 government figures, at least 150 intersex babies are born in Germany each year and 8,000 to 10,000 people have “serious variations” from physical gender-defining characteristics.
“A key aim of the new rule is to relieve parents of the pressure of having to decide a sex straight after the child’s birth, and thereby agreeing overly hastily to medical procedures to settle the child’s sex,” said a spokesman for the German Interior Ministry.
Support groups say the number of intersex individuals is far higher than government estimates, and point out the difficulties and subtleties of defining intersexuality physically or hormonally.
The interior ministry spokesman said the change did not amount to the creation of a third gender because the box stipulating male or female is left blank.
Creating a third gender would complicate German laws on marriages and partnerships, which operate on a binary male-female opposition, although the Ethics Council would examine the implications for intersex individuals, he added.
“This is an interesting move but it doesn’t go far enough,” said Silvan Agius, policy director at the Brussels-based rights group Equality for lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans and intersex people in Europe (ILGA).