Transgender individuals should be able to change their official gender and first name without red tape

Keywords: Civil status

Press Release, The Federal Council, 24.05.2018

In future, transgender and gender-variant individuals should be able to change the civil register entries for their gender and first name without any red tape. At its meeting on 23 May 2018, the Federal Council referred the corresponding change to the Swiss Civil Code forward for consultation. In doing so, it continues to pursue its policy of aligning civil law with the actual needs and realities of daily life among the population.

Key points in brief:  

  • The Federal Council wishes to improve the situation of transgender and gender-variant individuals.
  • In the future, they should be able to change the official entries for their gender and first name without red tape, by means of a simple declaration to their local registry office.
  • With the move, the Federal Council continues to pursue its policy of aligning civil law with the actual needs and realities of daily life among the population.

To improve the situation of transgender and gender-variant individuals, the Federal Council plans to make it easier to change civil register entries for gender and first name. People who feel strongly that they do not belong to the gender registered for them in the civil register should be able to change their official gender and first name by means of a simple declaration. No prior medical examination will be necessary. If the person concerned is married, their marriage will remain valid. The same principle applies to registered partnerships. Parent-child relationships also remain unchanged.

With the proposed changes, the Federal Council is amending Swiss legislation to the specific situation in which those who identify as transgender, or who are gender variant, find themselves. The revision is thus consistent with a number of reforms to the Swiss Civil Code in recent years, such as those concerning custody, maintenance, and adoption. The aim of these reforms is to align civil law with the actual needs and varying realities of daily life among the population.

Changing civil register entries is difficult at present

Under the present system, each child must be registered with the local registry office within three days of birth, stating their family and first names, parentage, and gender. These rules are unsatisfactory for the 40 or so genetically gender-variant children who are born in Switzerland every year. Even if medical experts are unable to determine a newborn baby's gender, the child must still be registered with the registry office as either male or female. Thereafter, gender and first name can only be changed in administrative or court proceedings.

Transgender individuals, whose gender identity differs from the gender allocated to them at birth, also face significant difficulties. Extrapolations indicate that there are between 100 and 200 transgender individuals in Switzerland who have already had gender reassignment surgery, or are considering it. Until very recently, the gender entry in the civil register could not be changed until surgical sterilisation or gender reassignment surgery had been performed. Anyone who was married had to divorce before the change could be made. Although these requirements are no longer enforced, the absence of any clear ruling in law means that transgender individuals continue to face enormous hurdles. They must sue in court to have their change of gender legally recognised. Legal practice is inconsistent, and proceedings are found to be unnecessarily protracted and expensive. That is why the Federal Council plans to amend the Swiss Civil Code.

Independently of the proposed legislative reform, the Federal Council is currently looking into whether or not the relevant implementing provisions and the civil register should be amended to extend the three-day deadline for registering a child's gender with the registry office if it is not possible to determine gender immediately after birth. In the past, social pressure resulted in children being put through sometimes-irreversible gender-determining surgery, without any medical need.

Report on the third gender issue

The proposed change to the Swiss Civil Code will not introduce a third gender. The Federal Council nonetheless firmly believes that Switzerland must address the possibility of this. In February of this year it therefore recommended that postulates from National Councillors Sibel Arslan (17.4121) and Rebecca Ruiz (17.4185), requesting that the issue be examined, be adopted. It has already declared its willingness to produce the corresponding report.

Further information

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For the complete documentation see the pages in German, French or Italian

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