A new report shows where it’s illegal to be transgender in 2020

13 countries have specific laws for transgender people. They are punished with prison, corporal punishment, and death.

A new report however has found that transgender people are also criminalized under 37 countries’ laws.

The Trans Legal Mapping Report released today by IGLA World also found that only 96 countries allow transgender people to change their gender legally. Importantly, only 25 countries are not considered to have “prohibitive requirements.”

This means that it is not legal to change your gender in at most 47 UN member countries.

Brunei is one of 13 countries that specifically criminalize transgender persons, mostly by using cross-dressing laws. The Islamic Penal Code of Iran also contains severe penalties for you bending gender norms through your expression.

These ‘cross-dressing laws’ can lead to severe penalties, including fines and lengthy prison sentences. In Malawi, corporal punishments are possible.

The Trans Legal Mapping Report is now in its third edition. It aims to determine the differences between the laws and the lived experiences of trans people. This was done by analysing relevant documentation and laws to determine what these actually mean for trans people.

ILGA has now classified 37 countries as having anti-trans de jure laws. This is a legal position that allows transgender people to be protected. According to the report authors, many other countries could have criminal laws, and evidence that they are being used against transgender people, which is difficult to find.

The authors concluded that transgender people face more harassment than they thought in certain countries.

Many of the transgender laws are minor offenses. They’re for things like public nuisance and morality or loitering. They can be used to lock up, arrest and sometimes even not charge people. “It’s a case where the police use what is available to them harass trans people,” Zhan Chiam (co-author) tells me.

“So, with these, it’s not about looking for laws that need to be repealed, but changing the perception of impunity by society, police, and people towards transgender persons.”

Transgender people are most often punished under anti-gay law because many countries don’t recognize gender. In these countries, the gender identity and sexuality of transgender individuals is often conflated.

In 70 countries, same-sex acts between LGBTQ people are still illegal. Consensual same sex acts between adults can be punished with death in 12 of these countries.

Transgender rights are currently in a worldwide recession that has intensified since the COVID-19 pandemic.

According to the International Classification of Diseases (ICD-11), being transgender or gender-diverse does not necessarily mean that you have a mental disorder.

However, since 2017’s Trans Legal Mapping Report, legal gender recognition rights in Guatemala, Hungary and New Zealand have been regressive or stagnant in the United States, United Kingdom and Uruguay. There is also the possibility of a regression in India and Nepal.

There is hope for trans rights worldwide. Progressive changes have been made in Australia, Canada, Chile, Colombia, Colombia, and Costa Rica since 2017. Pakistan is now allowing gender marker changes without imposing any restrictions.

These advances are not without controversy.

“In every part of the world that we have documented legal gender recognition, there have been regressions,” Chiam, co-author, says.

Jabulani Pereira is the Chair of the Trans Committee at ILGA World.

“We will continue to fight against state laws that oppress us, but at the same we need more studies that highlight our achievements and challenges in our right of self-determination, gender-affirming care, and living in a world where we are not physically or systemically harmed.”

Nations must still update their laws according to the WHO guidelines. These guidelines are underwritten by UN by January 2022.

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