Serbia-based Gayten-LGBT is a leader in the emerging transgender rights movement in Eastern Europe. On October 12th, organization hosted a roundtable with state institutional and international support in which they presented legal frameworks for protecting transgender rights in education, healthcare, employment, and legal recognition of gender identity. Shortly after, the Serbian government proposed policy changes that would restrict access to transgender healthcare. In late October, the Serbian Ministry of Justice and State Administration of the Republic published a draft of Law on Changes and Additions to the Law on Non-Contentious Procedure stipulating that people must obtain a court permit in order to undergo legal sex and gender identity change.
The draft legislation marks a regressive legal step in a country recently described in a New York Times article as a transgender surgery hub. Serbia attracts many from surrounding regions and Western European countries in which gender reassignment surgery is prohibitively expensive or considered controversial in medical communities. In a recent press release, Gayten-LGBT drew attention to the fact that in the more than 20 years that sex reassignment surgery and body modification have been available in Serbia, there have never been legal restrictions or monitoring of who can elect hormone therapy, have surgery, or get medical treatment. Furthermore, thanks to local and regional advocacy by Gayten-LGBT and allies, the Law on Health Care was amended last year to include provisions for health insurance coverage of these surgeries.
While many countries in the world have policies to address the legal consequences of gender reassignment surgery, requiring court permission to obtain related medical care would be historic and an unethical legal step backwards. Gayten-LGBT and the Coalition Against Discrimination also showed particular concern for the fact that transgender people and trans rights advocacy organisations were left out of the process of making the draft law. In challenging the proposed legal changes, the coalition points to Recommendations of the Committee of Ministers to member states and a 2009 Recommendation of the Council of Europe High Commissioner for Human Rights (Human Rights and Gender Identity) which underscore the importance of efficiency, transparency, and accessibility in legal measures to change personal name and gender in legal and identification documents and the inclusion of trans people in creating and implementing policy which directly pertains to transgender communities.