A right to respect for gender identity: new standards for personal autonomy

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Author: Tatiana Khramova

DOI: 10.21128/1812-7126-2019-3-54-68

Keywords: dignity; gender identity; gender pluralism; personal autonomy; right to personal development; subjectivity of gender identification; substantive equality


The article focuses on the right to respect of one’s gender identity, which is one of the inalienable attributes of personal autonomy and dignity in their contemporary understanding. Discovering the constitutional meaning of this right is an important task due to the rapid development of biomedical technologies and the subsequent rejection of a strict presumption of the objective nature of gender. The right to recognition of gender identity is based on two key principles that are gradually penetrating the legal systems of democratic countries: gender pluralism and the subjectivity of gender identification. The author employs a case study to demonstrate: 1) some of the best practices of utilizing these principles; and 2) major challenges in their implementation, as well as existing approaches to overcoming these challenges. The principle of gender pluralism presumes the legality of numerous genders in addition to male and female. Cases reviewed by the German Federal Constitutional Court and the Indian Supreme Court provide substantive arguments in favour of recognizing a “third” (“diverse”) gender and show how bodies of constitutional review may introduce progressive changes into legal systems and take on a leading role in forgoing stereotypes and widening the interpretation of personal autonomy and dignity. The principle of subjectivity of gender identification demands that the government officially recognizes one’s gender on the basis of a person’s deeply felt internal experience. The article considers several constitutional arguments used by national and international judicial authorities that contribute to the gradual adoption of the above-mentioned principle, rejecting sex reassignment surgery as a necessary prerequisite for official gender recognition. The author devotes a special paragraph to the issue of the interconnection between the right to recognition of one’s gender identity and the principle of gender equality. The article notices that in many jurisdictions there is a shift from the principle of formal equality to that of substantive equality resulting in the approval of certain measures of positive discrimination based on gender. This trend brings along the extension of the spectrum of state obligations regarding the procedures of official gender recognition, as well as securing the rights of people who have undergone gender reassignment.

About the author: Tatiana Khramova – Candidate of Sciences (Ph.D.) in Law, Associate Professor, Faculty of Law, Higher School of Economics, Moscow, Russia.

Citation: Khramova T. (2019) Pravo na uvazheniye gendernoy identichnosti: novyye standarty avtonomii lichnosti [A right to respect for gender identity: new standards for personal autonomy]. Sravnitel'noe konstitutsionnoe obozrenie, vol.28, no.3, pp.54–68. (In Russian).


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