by Sabine Hannakampf
Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had often expressed his intention to help the trans* community, but for years hardly anything had happened. But for some months now, it seems, the problems have been seriously addressed.
On 12 October, Israel’s Justice Minister Avi Nissenkorn and Welfare Minister Itzik Shmuli announced the formation of a government committee to support the Israeli transgender community.
Avi Nissenkorn said that so far, “the transgender community has encountered unnecessary problems when meeting with state authorities”. But the government has an obligation,
“to allow every human being to live his or her life as he or she chooses and in a simple, accessible and equal way”.
Welfare Minister Itzik Shmuli also welcomed the move. He said:
“The State of Israel is taking another significant step towards a place where all Israeli citizens will feel equal before the authorities”.
Under the leadership of Deputy Prosecutor General Dina Zilber and Deputy Director General of the Ministry of Welfare and Social Services, Avi Mutula, an inter-ministerial team will be set up from the Justice, Health, Welfare and Education Departments. Over the next four months, according to Haaretz, this team will work with organisations such as the Gilo Project, Brit Haleviot, Trans Israel and the LGBT Task Force Aguda – Israel to identify the problems and obstacles that the transgender community faces in dealing with government agencies and ministries. On this basis, recommendations and proposals will be made to the Cabinet to make daily life easier for transgender people.
The situation for Trans* in Israel is well documented …
For years Israeli human rights organisations have been fighting for an improvement of their rights. This is also urgently needed, as a study published in 2015 shows. In it, 70 percent of transgender men and 76 percent of transgender women stated that they had been abused because of their gender identity, and about half of them (48 percent of men and 55 percent of women) had been victims of physical violence and abuse because of it.
The situation at the workplace was also anything but perfect: 68 percent of the transgender employees* had experienced discrimination at work, 24 percent even experienced physical violence in their professional environment.
… and was bad for a long time.
Until 2015, the change of identity documents in Israel was only allowed after a gender-alignment operation. The World Professional Association for Transgender Health, a professional organisation dedicated to better understanding and treatment of gender dysphoria, stated that a person’s physical and mental health can suffer greatly due to difficulties in recognising gender identity. The study, conducted in 2015, found that 41 percent of Israel’s trans people had attempted suicide at least once in their lives.
Only after a petition by transgender women to the High Court of Justice did the state set up a committee to examine the situation. The new rule finally came into force in 2015.
The mills of justice grind slowly
Five years later the Ministry of Justice adopted new rules: Since February 2020, it has been possible to apply for a change in the gender entry on identity documents after a waiting period of six months instead of two years – even without having undergone gender reassignment surgery.
During this period, however, transgender persons must prove that they live with a different gender identity, and the Ministry of Health must first approve the change. At present, transgender persons must have already started hormone replacement therapy in order to receive this approval.
The new rules “certainly do not end the difficulties that transgender people face in Israel”, wrote Deputy Attorney General Dina Zilber when the new rules were introduced. She hopes, however,
“that these changes will make life easier for many transgender people by removing unnecessary obstacles to their lives, thus contributing to the protection of human rights in Israel on an important issue of human dignity”.
For Israeli LGBTIQ* organisations, the decisions in February did not go far enough. All their hopes are now focused on the work of the inter-ministerial team.
- 474px-Benjamin_Netanyahu_2010: By Υπουργείο Εξωτερικών / CC BY-SA 2.0 / wikimedia.org
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