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Centre for Law, Medicine and Life Sciences

Faculty of Law

The need to allow a change of legal sex/gender in certain cases is no longer disputed in most jurisdictions, and for European countries, there is no question as to whether such a change should be allowed after the decision of the European Court of Human Rights in Goodwin v. United Kingdom (Application no. 28957/95).  The controversy has therefore shifted to two further questions.

The first is what the requirements for such a change of legal sex/gender should be.  Many jurisdictions have legislated or developed an administrative approach to changing legal sex/gender, but the requirements differ significantly from jurisdiction to jurisdiction, particularly with regard to age, nationality and marital status, as well as the medical and psychological requirements.  The latter in some jurisdictions still include surgery and sterility as a precondition, thus potentially forcing the persons concerned to choose between the recognition of their sex/gender identity and their physical integrity. 

The second question is what the full legal consequences of a change of legal sex/gender should be, for example with regard to existing legal relationships such as marriages and registered partnerships, but also concerning children and parentage. 

These two challenging questions have been the focus of an international comparative research project led by Dr Jens M. Scherpe and run under the auspices of the University of Hong Kong’s Centre for Medical Ethics and Law.  The culmination of this research is Dr Scherpe's new edited volume, The Legal Status of Transsexual and Transgender Persons.  This volume comprises not only national reports from more than 14 selected jurisdictions from around the globe, but also chapters on medical/psychological and Christian views and a comparative analysis that concludes with concrete recommendations regarding the legal status of transsexual and transgender persons.