Transgender Rights Victory in Europe

By: Veronica Devries

Journal of Global Rights and Organizations, Associate Articles Editor

BUCHAREST, Romania – The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) has held in the case of X and Y v. Romania that the applicants had experienced a violation of Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights. Article 8 covers the right to respect for one’s private and family life.

Pride parade in Bucharest, Romania in 2019. Photo Courtesy of Balkin Insight and Robert Ghement.

The case concerned X and Y, two Romanian nationals registered female at birth, that applied for their civil-status records to be changed from female to male. They were born in 1976 and 1982, respectively, and live in the United Kingdom and Bucharest. X brought an action in 2013 against Bucharest’s first district’s local council. X presented several medical certificates to confirm that he suffered from a gender identity disorder. Despite this, the district refused to change his gender, stating that the change was “premature” as X had not undergone gender reassignment surgery. X moved to the United Kingdom in 2014 and obtained male forenames thereafter the courts in Romania had refused to change his gender.

Y brought an action against the local council for the third district in Bucharest. Y requested authorization to undergo gender reassignment surgery, along with various administrative changes, including a civil-status change of their gender like X had requested. In May 2013, the court stated that the applicant would not be able to apply for a change in forename until the gender reassignment surgery had been performed.

In their complaints, the applicants stated that the Romanian state had not established a clear process for the legal recognition of their gender identities, as the state was effectively making gender reassignment surgery a prerequisite for a civil-status change.

On January 19, 2021, the ECHR ruled that the state’s refusal to provide the requested administrative changes without the applicants having undergone surgery was an “unjustified interference” of the applicants’ right to respect for private and family life. This right is found in Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights.

In its decision, the ECHR held that the state had unreasonably required gender reassignment surgery in order for the administrative change to occur. In a statement, the ECHR stated “…the national courts had presented the applicants, who did not wish to undergo gender reassignment surgery, with an impossible dilemma; either they had to undergo the surgery against their better judgement…or they had to forego recognition of their gender identity…”

The ECHR required Romania to pay 8,653 euros to X in damages, and 7,500 euros to Y in damages, in addition to paying costs to each applicant.  

For further information, please see:

Balkan Insight – European Court Rules Romania Violated Trans Rights – 19 Jan. 2021

European Convention on Human Rights – 1 June 2010

European Court of Human Rights – Press Release – 19 Jan. 2021

Radio Free Europe News – European Human Rights Court Fines Romania For Transgender Rights Violations – 19 Jan. 2021

TGEU – Third Party Intervention X v Romania and Y v Romania – 19 July 2018

Author: Nadia Abed