December 4, 2022

Meaning Gender identity and sexual orientation in Law

Gender identity is one of the most-fundamental aspects of life which refers to a person’s intrinsic sense of being male, female or transgender or transsexual person. A person’s sex is usually assigned at birth, but a relatively small group of persons may born with bodies which incorporate both or certain aspects of both male and female physiology.

At times, genital anatomy problems may arise in certain persons, their innate perception of themselves, is not in conformity with the sex assigned to them at birth and may include pre and post-operative transsexual persons and also persons who do not choose to undergo or do not have access to operation and also include persons who cannot undergo successful operation.

Few persons undertake surgical and other procedures to alter their bodies and physical appearance to acquire gender characteristics of the sex which conform to their perception of gender, leading to legal and social complications since official record of their gender at birth is found to be at variance with the assumed gender identity.

Meaning of Gender Identity

Gender identity refers to each person’s deeply felt internal and individual experience of gender, which may or may not correspond with the sex assigned at birth, including the personal sense of the body which may involve a freely chosen, modification of bodily appearance or functions by medical, surgical or other means and other expressions of gender, including dress, speech and mannerisms.

Gender identity, therefore, refers to an individual’s self-identification as a man, woman, transgender or other identified category.

Meaning of Sexual orientation

Sexual orientation refers to an individuals enduring physical, romantic and/or emotional attraction to another person. Sexual orientation includes transgender and gender-variant people with heavy sexual orientation and their sexual orientation may or may not change during or after gender transmission, which also includes homo-sexuals, bisexuals, heterosexuals, asexual etc. Gender identity and sexual orientation, as already indicated, are different concepts.

Each person’s self-defined sexual orientation and gender identity is integral to their personality and is one of the most basic aspects of self-determination, dignity and freedom and no one shall be forced to undergo medical procedures, including SRS, sterilization or hormonal therapy, as a requirement for legal recognition of their gender identity.

UNITED NATIONS AND OTHER HUMAN RIGHTS BODIES ON GENDER IDENTITY AND SEXUAL ORIENTATION

United Nations has been instrumental in advocating the protection and promotion of rights of sexual minorities, including transgender persons.

Article 6 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, 1948 and Article 16 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, 1966 (ICCPR) recognize that every human being has the inherent right to live and this right shall be protected by law and that no one shall be arbitrarily denied of that right. Everyone shall have a right to recognition, everywhere as a person before the law.

Article 17 of the ICCPR states that no one shall be subjected to arbitrary or unlawful interference with his privacy, family, home or correspondence, nor to unlawful attacks on his honour and reputation and that everyone has the right to protection of law against such interference or attacks.

Yogyakarta Principles

International Commission of Jurists and the International Service for Human Rights on behalf of a coalition of human rights organizations, took a project to develop a set of international legal principles on the application of international law to human rights violations based on sexual orientation and sexual identity to bring greater clarity and coherence to States human rights obligations.

A distinguished group of human rights experts has drafted, developed, discussed and reformed the principles in a meeting held at Gadjah Mada University in Yogyakarta, Indonesia from 6 to 9 November, 2006, which is unanimously adopted the Yogyakarta Principles on the application of International Human Rights Law in relation to Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity.

Yogyakarta Principles address a broad range of human rights standards and their application to issues of sexual orientation gender identity. There are 29 Principles, Reference to few Yogyakarta Principles would be useful.

PRINCIPLE 1 which deals with the right to the universal enjoyment of human rights, reads as follows: –

1. THE RIGHT TO THE UNIVERSAL ENJOYMENT OF HUMAN RIGHTS

All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. Human beings of all sexual orientations and gender identities are entitled to the full enjoyment of all human rights.

2. THE RIGHTS TO EQUALITY AND NON-DISCRIMINATION

Everyone is entitled to enjoy all human rights without discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity. Everyone is entitled to equality before the law and the equal protection of the law without any such discrimination whether or not the enjoyment of another human right is also affected. The law shall prohibit any such discrimination and guarantee to all persons equal and effective protection against any such discrimination.

Discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity includes any distinction, exclusion, restriction or preference based on sexual orientation or gender identity which has the purpose or effect of nullifying or impairing equality before the law or the equal protection of the law, or the recognition, enjoyment or exercise, on an equal basis, of all human rights and fundamental freedoms.

3. THE RIGHT TO RECOGNITION BEFORE THE LAW

Everyone has the right to recognition everywhere as a person before the law. Persons of diverse sexual orientations and gender identities shall enjoy legal capacity in all aspects of life. Each person’s self- defined sexual orientation and gender identity is integral to their personality and is one of the most basic aspects of self- determination, dignity and freedom.

No one shall be forced to undergo medical procedures, including sex reassignment surgery, sterilization or hormonal therapy, as a requirement for legal recognition of their gender identity. No status, such as marriage or parenthood, may be invoked as such to prevent the legal recognition of a person’s gender identity. No one shall be subjected to pressure to conceal, suppress or deny their sexual orientation or gender identity.

4. THE RIGHT TO LIFE

Everyone has the right to life. No one shall be arbitrarily deprived of life, including by reference to considerations of sexual orientation or gender identity.

6. THE RIGHT TO PRIVACY

The right to privacy ordinarily includes the choice to disclose or not to disclose information relating to one’s sexual orientation or gender identity, as well as decisions and choices regarding both one’s own body and consensual sexual and other relations with others.

9. THE RIGHT TO TREATMENT WITH HUMANITY WHILE IN DETENTION

Everyone deprived of liberty shall be treated with humanity and with respect for the inherent dignity of the human person. Sexual orientation and gender identity are integral to each person’s dignity.

18. PROTECTION FROM MEDICAL ABUSES

No person may be forced to undergo any form of medical or psychological treatment, procedure, testing, or be confined to a medical facility, based on sexual orientation or gender identity.

19. THE RIGHT TO FREEDOM OF OPINION AND EXPRESSION

Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity.

UN bodies, Regional Human Rights Bodies, National Courts, Government Commissions and the Commissions for Human Rights, Council of Europe, etc. have endorsed the Yogyakarta Principles and have considered them as an important tool for identifying the obligations of States to respect, protect and fulfill the human rights of all persons, regardless of their gender identity.

United Nations Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights on Sexual orientation

United Nations Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights in its Report of 2009 speaks of gender orientation and gender identity as follows: –

“Sexual orientation and gender identity Other status as recognized in article 2, paragraph 2, includes sexual orientation. States parties should ensure that a person’s sexual orientation is not a barrier to realizing Covenant rights, for example, in accessing survivors pension rights. In addition, gender identity is recognized as among the prohibited grounds of discrimination, for example, persons who are transgender, transsexual or intersex, often face serious human rights violations, such as harassment in schools or in the workplace.”

Others

In this respect, reference may also be made to the General Comment No.2 of the Committee on Torture and Article 2 of the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment in 2008 and also the General Comment No.20 of the Committee on Elimination of Discrimination against Woman, responsible for the implementation of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Woman, 1979 and 2010 report.

India

Indian supreme court recognized the right to choose gender identity, in the case of ‘National legal service authority v. Union of India, (2014)’.

Reference

National Legal Service Authority v. Union of India, (2014)