Kosovo Court of Appeal takes historic decision on legal gender recognition

On August 22nd Centre for Equality and Liberty (CEL) of Kosovo and Centre for Social Group Development (CSGD) announced the historical decision taken by the Kosovo Court of Appeals on the 2ndof August, 2019 which officially approved the request of a trans citizen to change their name and gender marker in the Central Civil Status Register and Civil Status Principal Register. 

Both organizations welcomed the decision of the Court of Appeals considering it a very important step to further ensure the rights of the trans community in Kosovo. This decision is expected to be taken as a practice and positive example from the Civil Status Offices and the Agency for Civil Registry of Kosovo on how to deal with future requests of citizens who wish to officially change their name and gender markers. 

The right to recognition of a persons’ gender identity is protected in Kosovo in the framework of the right to privacy as well as by the Constitution of Kosovo, European Convention for Human Rights and legal practices of the European Court of Human Rights.

CEL and CSGD took the opportunity of such an important development to remind the Kosovo media to pay much more attention to the language they use when reporting for trans persons. 

This landmark decision comes at a time when the rights of trans persons are far from protected and respected in Kosovo (just as much as the rest of the Balkan region). As highlighted in ERA’s annual report 2018, trans people face discrimination and violence and more often than not they do not declare their gender identity for security reasons. Due to the low visibility of the community it is also quite hard for local organizations to collect and report cases of violence or discrimination.  The decision of the Court of Appeals was preceded by a negative decision of the Civil Status Office of a town of Prizren, which denied the request of a Kosovo citizen to change their name and gender marker in the Civil Status Registers. The decision obliges specifically the Directorate of the Administration (Civil Status Office) in Prizren to do the changes in Civil Status Registers.

Legal gender recognition, which is quick, accessible and transparent as well as based on the principle of self-determination, is crucial to the life and well-being of trans citizens. Without it, many trans persons face many obstacles as their legal gender on their ID does not match their gender identity. Daily tasks, which are considered mundane by most citizens, such as picking up mail at a post office, applying for a job, opening a bank account, access to civil servants within public institutions, applying for a Visa, boarding a plane etc. can be a source of harassment, suspicion and even violence.