What You Need to Know About Greece's New Gender Identity Law

Syntagma Square, Athens | © Dario Sušanj/Flickr
Syntagma Square, Athens | © Dario Sušanj/Flickr
Photo of Ethel Dilouambaka
3 November 2017

Amid much controversy, Greek MPs recently adopted a law on the change of gender identity. From the age of 15, citizens will be able to self-identify as male or female, regardless of the gender assigned to them at birth, without surgery or medical examination. The decision made on October 10 means Greece joins the ranks of Ireland, Malta, Denmark and Norway, where the practice is well established.

Since the proposal of the gender identity law earlier this year, a lively debate with the Greek Orthodox church and the opposition’s most conservative parties has been underway. After two days of highly charged debate, Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras stated: “No tradition, no religion, no perception of family requires citizens to remain on the margins or be pushed into institutional and social oblivion”, right before conducting the voting procedure. For Syriza, the leading party, the purpose of the bill is to end the marginalization that many people with a confused gender identity face daily.

Altogether, no less than 147 MPs voted in favor, against 114 ‘no’, which shows the strong political divisions within the Parliament. Case in point, all but one deputy of the coalition party ANEL voted against the law, while the party leader, Panos Kammenos, was even absent.

But in a country where about 71% of the population actually believe the Church should be separated from the State, unsurprisingly, the bill has enraged the Greek Orthodox Church, who state that the bill was immoral. According to a statement, the Church believes the bill “defies customs and common sense, and, above all, destroys people.” Far-right wing parties followed suit and condemned the new bill.

But for a good portion of those voting against the law, the issue is not so much the bill itself, but rather the age. For example, while Kyriakos Mitsotakis, leader of Nea Demokratia, understands and accepts the right to self-determination, he refuses the minimum age to be set at 15, and had previously requested the minimum age to be raised to 18, given the significance of the decision.

Mitsotakis said: “It makes no sense to us that a 15-year-old, who is prohibited from consuming alcohol, is allowed to take such an important decision … a decision that should be taken with medical expertise.”

The new bill implies that official documents and records, such as birth certificates or even school diplomas, will be aligned to match the chosen gender identity.

Prior to this, it was only possible to change gender when the diagnostic of gender dysphoria was established by a professional physician and after the removal of reproductive organs. As such, the new bill, which has been long awaited by the Greek LGTB community, marks the beginning of a new era in one of Europe’s most socially conservative nations.

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