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Latvian case study

Refusal to amend person’s register of birth – to add details about person’s sex conversion from „female” to „male”

Legal framework

Civil Status Records Law – Article 32 declares that register of birth should be amended (details to the original record should be added) if child’s sex has been changed. Amendments should be done based on application, court decision or administrative act.

Administrative procedure law - Article 15 
(12) Institutions and courts may not refuse to decide an issue on the grounds that such issue is not regulated by law or other external regulatory enactment (prohibition of legal obstruction by institutions and courts). They may not refuse to apply a norm of law on the grounds that such norm does not provide for the mechanism of application, it is not exhaustive or no other regulatory enactments have been issued which would more closely regulate the application of the relevant norm. This shall not apply only in cases where an institution, which is required to apply this norm or participate in its application in another way, has not been established or is not operating.

The Constitution of the Republic of Latvia – Article 96
Everyone has the right to inviolability of their private life, home and correspondence.

The European Convention on Human Rights – Article 8
Everyone has the right to respect for his private and family life, his home and his correspondence. 
There shall be no interference by a public authority with the exercise of this right except such as is in accordance with the law and is necessary in a democratic society in the interests of national security, public safety or the economic well-being of the country, for the prevention of disorder or crime, for the protection of health or morals, or for the protection of the rights and freedoms of others. 

Facts of the case

Person „X” had undergone two sexual conversion surgeries to change her sex from „female” to „male”. Person “X” applied to the Civil Status Records Office with a request to amend her register of birth. Person “X” wanted that the Civil Status Records Office add to the original record information about her sex conversion from “female” to “male”. 
The Civil Records Office sent the application to the Health Ministry for a review and advisory opinion. The Health Ministry replied that person “X” should provide the Civil Status Records Office with the document from the hospital that the person “X” has changed her sex. This document also should state the person’s “X” current sex. Hence, the Civil Status Record Office requested the hospital where person ”X” did her surgeries to provide them with such documentation. The hospital did not approved that person’s “X” sex has been completely changed from “female” to “male” ( at least one more surgery is still needed) and therefore the Civil Status Records Office refused to amend person’s “X” register of birth. Consequently, person “X” could not acquire new identity papers.

The arguments before the court

In her application to the court person “X” argues that she has provided the Civil Status Records Office with the medical documentation stating that she has undergone two sexual conversion surgeries and conversed her sex. From other cases she knows that such documentation was sufficient to amend the civil status papers. Due to the fact that state authorities refuse to amend her civil status papers her human rights are violated, because her identity papers do not match her appearance and social behavior. 
Civil Status Records Law provides that amendments to the original records should be done if the person’s sex has been conversed, but do not elaborate how to test that person’s sex has been conversed, namely, what criteria should be satisfied in order recognize the sex conversion.