Chile enacts landmark gender identity law


SANTIAGO – Trans people in Chile can now change their gender on official documents after a landmark law for human rights came into effect in the staunchly conservative country yesterday.

Chilean president Sebastian Piñera signed the transgender rights bill into law on Wednesday (November 28), which allows trans people above the age of 14 to update their name and gender on official records.

“We promulgate #LeyDeIdentidadDeGénero (Law of Gender Identity) with a firm belief that we are all born equal in dignity, rights and duties, and deserve to be architects of our lives and live them with freedom. So we move towards a society of human values, love and respect for the diversity,” Piñera wrote on Twitter (in Spanish).

The bill was first introduced by center-left President Michelle Bachelet, then faced fierce lobbying by conservative and religious groups until its eventual passage by lawmakers in September, nearly five years later.

The law marks a progressive shift in Chile, which is strongly Roman Catholic and became one of the last countries in the world to legalize divorce in 2004. And the country’s ban on abortion, one of the strictest in the world, was lifted in 2017, though for special circumstances only.

Chile passes law allowing transgender teens to change their sex, name

Human rights groups praised the passing of the “historic” trans rights law in the traditionalist country, where abortion remains illegal except for under special circumstances.

“Today we’re taking a historic leap that will improve the quality of life for the trans population,” said Rolando Jimenez, leader of the Integration and Homosexual Liberation Movement (Movilh). “A basic right, that of identity, is being recognized. It’s a right that most of us have from birth but which is taken from the trans population at birth.”

However, Jimenez believes the law should go further to include children younger than 14, adding that it’s an “obvious violation of human rights that we hope will be corrected.”

The Human Rights Campaign lauded the new law as a landmark moment for trans rights in the country.

“This historic decision marks a milestone for LGBTQ rights in Chile and in South America,” said Ty Cobb, global director at Human Rights Campaign.

“We commend the efforts of all the LGBTQ advocates involved, including our Chilean partners at Fundación Iguales, who worked tirelessly for five years to achieve this victory.

“While this legislation removes roadblocks for many trans people, there is still important progress to be made — especially for transgender youth.”

The transgender bill signed into law on Wednesday defines gender identity as a personal conviction of whether a person sees himself or herself as male or female, irrespective of their physical state or the gender or name assigned to them in the country’s civic register.

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