ARGENTINA: Landmark ruling on minor's battle for gender reassignment surgery

[BUENOS AIRES, 26 September 2007] – Argentina set a precedent for the rest of Latin America on Tuesday by recognising a minor’s right to change her sexual identity. For the first time in the region, a court ruled in favour of a minor’s wish to have a sex change operation and to amend her identity card and birth certificate accordingly.

After three years of court battles, Natalia, 17, was granted permission to go through with the operation by a judge in the province of Córdoba, confirmed Pedro Paradiso Sottile, Coordinator of the legal department of the Argentinian Homosexual Community (CHA, from its acronym in Spanish).

Paradiso explained that the judge based his decision on a section of the country’s civil code on organ transplants, which recognises the psychological capacity of minors to decide on matters affecting their body, and article 12 of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child.

“This is an historic judgement because it is the first time a case of this kind has been made public in the whole of Latin America and this will help a lot of people who find themselves in similar circumstances”, he said.

‘Very difficult’ situations

The judge, Rodolfo Mario Álvarez, admitted that the request for the operation was made by Natalia’s parents following two judicial refusals which forced them to make the case public through the media and led to some tough times for Natalia.

The merry-go-round in the courts began in 2004, when Natalia had already undergone a number of psychological analyses which confirmed her determination.

The judicial refusals were based on the fact that parent responsibility was not sufficient grounds for authorising an “irreversible” intervention.

Emotional crisis

Commenting on Natalia’s ordeal, Paradiso said: “With every denial, Natalia sank deeper into herself, reaching the point of endangering her life as a result of emotional turmoil. They told her so many outragous things during the process. It is thanks to the support of her friends and family that she is still alive because the Argentinian State and its justice system would have led her to commit suicide”.

Following the publication of her situation in the press, in 2006, Córdoba’s High Court of Justice took over the case and ordered further psychological tests which recommended the surgery and a change of legal identity.

After the operation, Natalia will be given psychological support until she is 21.


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