Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Spain To Permit Legal Gender Switch Without Surgery

The Associated Press


Men who want to be considered women -- and vice versa -- under Spanish law could do so without sex-change surgery under a plan passed Friday by the government, in the latest chapter of a liberal agenda that has angered the Roman Catholic Church.

The bill says transsexuals can change their gender listing and name in Spanish civil registries without undergoing surgery, but on several conditions. A doctor must certify they were born the wrong sex and have been living for an extended period under the one they want, and the person must undergo hormonal or other medical treatment to encourage the change of identity.

"Transsexuality, understood as a change in gender identity, is a social reality that requires a legislative response," Deputy Prime Minister Maria Teresa Fernandez de la Vega said after a Cabinet meeting.

Spain is home to 7,000 to 9,000 transsexuals -- people who believe they were born with the wrong sex -- but the number of those who have actually undergone sex-change surgery is not known, said Beatriz Gimeno, president of Spain's main federation of gays, lesbians and transsexuals.

She welcomed the new bill, which must go before Parliament, saying Spain was far behind other countries of Europe in protecting the rights of transsexuals.

"It is good that we get up to date with regard to the rights of these people, who are Spanish citizens," Gimeno said.

Spain's state-funded health care system is run by regional governments, two of which -- Andalusia and Extremadura, both in the south -- pay for sex-change operations, according to the Health Ministry.

The new bill is the latest plank in the Socialist government's liberal platform, which has also included legalization of gay marriage and making it easier for Spaniards to divorce.

The measures have infuriated the Catholic Church, which accuses Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero of undermining traditional family values.

Pope Benedict XVI will visit the Spanish city of Valencia in July for a gathering dedicated to family issues, and during his stay he is due to meet with Zapatero.

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