Forbes India 15th Anniversary Special

Changing gender identity: From Argentina to India, countries that make it easy

Several countries have scrapped requirements for people who want to change the gender registered at their birth to undergo medical or psychological treatment. Here's a look at the situation worldwide

Published: Feb 18, 2023 09:00:24 AM IST
Updated: Feb 18, 2023 12:11:35 PM IST

Changing gender identity: From Argentina to India, countries that make it easySpain's Minister for Equality Irene Montero (L) celebrates with LGBTI+ member Niurka Gibaja in front of the Spanish Congress, in Madrid. Image: Oscar Del Pozo/AFP

Spain on Thursday joined a small but growing club of nations that allow people to change their gender on their ID card through a simple administrative declaration.

 Several countries have scrapped requirements for people who want to change the gender registered at their birth to undergo medical or psychological treatment.

AFP looks at the situation worldwide:

Early days yet


According to the International Lesbian and Gay Association (ILGA), at least 25 UN member states "allow for legal gender recognition without prohibitive requirements".

But only a handful of countries allow transgender people to change their status with a simple declaration.

In some countries, the legal and administrative process can take years and may include requirements such as psychiatric diagnosis, hormone treatment, gender reassignment surgery or even sterilisation.

Sweden was the first country in the world to authorise gender transition in 1972, but has recently introduced restrictions on reassignment hormone treatments for minors.

Argentina, the pioneer


Argentina has led the way on transgender rights, allowing a change of gender on national ID cards with a simple declaration since 2012.

Several Latin American countries have followed suit, including Bolivia, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru and Uruguay.

In Chile, the international success of the Oscar-winning film "A Fantastic Woman", which starred transgender actress Daniela Vega, helped galvanise backing for a gender identity law that came into force in 2019.

Denmark, first in Europe


The issue of trans rights sparked a fierce row recently in Scotland, where parliament passed a bill making it easier for people to self-identify their gender that was sensationally vetoed by London.

Denmark was the first European country in 2014 to allow adults to apply for a gender change without undergoing medical or psychological assessments, with Belgium, Ireland, Malta and Norway later following suit.

Spain is the biggest European country yet to take what Equality Minister Irene Montero has called the "giant step forward".

Also read: Man, woman or X: US rolls out gender-neutral passports

Lawmakers adopted a bill that allows anyone aged 16 and over to change their gender on their ID card. Minors as young as 14 can apply with the permission of their parents or legal guardians.

In June 2022, the German government unveiled plans to introduce similar changes.

France allows transgender people to change their status but they must receive court approval.

Third gender


Some countries, particularly in South Asia, have long recognised a third gender that is neither male nor female.

Pakistan in 2009 became one of the first ever to legally recognise a third sex.

Nepal in 2013 added a transgender category on citizenship certificates, which act as a national identity card.

The same year Australia allowed its citizens to add a third category to passports.

Also read: Cars and dolls for all: Spain tackles toy gender bias

In 2014, India's Supreme Court recognised the existence of a third gender and since 2018 transgender people have been able to register to vote as a third gender in neighbouring Bangladesh.

In 2018, Germany legalised a third gender on birth certificates to cover the cases of intersex people, born with both male and female sex characteristics.

In the United States in 2021, the State Department eased gender selection on passports allowing transgender passport holders to use "X" for gender.