Victory for LGBTI Groups as Gender Identity law passes

Victory for LGBTI groups

On 31st July 2018, civil society in Portugal welcomed the passing of a new law on Gender Identity and Sexual Characteristics. According to the International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association (ILGA) Portugal:

“The bill guarantees full self-determination for trans persons of legal age and prohibits genital mutilation at birth in the case of intersex children unless surgical interventions are strictly necessary for their survival." (translated from Portuguese)

Supporters of the law consider it an “outstanding” step forward for human rights in Portugal. The legislation also ensures the right of young trans people between the ages of 16 and 18 to change their names and legal sex, providing there is a medical report attesting their free will. The requirement for a medical report had been pushed for by the Portuguese president following previous debates on the law.  

As previously reported to the CIVICUS Monitor, the debate on the bill was heated and, in May, the President had blocked the promulgation of the law, demanding for additional requirements for underage people wishing to make changes to their name and sex. Daniela Bento, a member of the ILGA Portugal Management and coordinator of GRIT - Association's Trans Reflection and Intervention Group, commented on the provision for underage people, which was previously condemned by ILGA: 

"We are aware that this is not the ideal solution, but it is the compromise likely to ensure the enactment of a law that is urgent, as transgender and underage people are dependent on this new legislation." (translated from Portuguese)
Cooperation forum

On 25th July, a Cooperation Forum was held in involving the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and civil society organisations working in international development cooperation. The Forum touched on several important new initiatives that could potentially improve the work of CSOs in the field and their cooperation with the business sector. Among the issues tackled during the Forum was a new co-financing subvention worth 400,000 Euro and the creation of thematic sub-groups which would enhance the involvement of enterprises in the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). According to civil society sources, the meeting left little time for real discussion and many questions on how the new initiatives will be rolled out and how existing challenges can be overcome were left unanswered.

Rita Leote, Executive Director of Platforma ONGD, the national platform for development NGOs, had already reported on the CIVICUS Monitor that while the Forum was created to improve the exchange of information between the Ministry and civil society, it should be strengthened to make the dialogue more effective and meaningful. In her view, currently, the Forum is an opportunity for the Ministry to share upcoming projects rather than a space for real consultation. In a related development, earlier this year, the organisation SDG Watch Europe reported that the Portuguese government had not consulted civil society organisations in advance of submitting the country's voluntary national review (VNR) report on implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in 2017.