Proposed changes to ID laws will benefit transgender, non-binary people

Proposed changes to South Africa’s ID laws put forward by the department of home affairs (DHA) will be a “phenomenal” benefit to transgender and non-binary people, said EL-based organisation Social, Health and Empowerment (SHE).

PROGRESS: EL-based organisation Social, Health and Empowerment (SHE) said the proposed changes to ID laws would help transgender and non-binary people
Picture by torbakhopper is licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0

“Essentially the department of home affairs wants to really authentically capture the citizens of South Africa,” the organisation said.

According to the Draft Official Identity Management Policy released by the DHA, a number of problems exist with current ID laws, one of which was the exclusion of trans and non-binary people.

“Gender and sexual identity minorities are excluded because the current laws and policies do not cater for changes in the gender/sex attribute of the identity system.

“They experience discrimination when attempting to register or update their gender in the ID system,” the document says.

The department also said that the Identification Act of 1997 and the Births and Deaths Registration Act of 1992 don’t cater for children who are born intersex.

To remedy the situation, the department recommended updating the format of identify numbers, the 13-digit code which record basic information about all citizens.

At the moment, the first four digits after your date of birth classify citizens as either female (0000-4999) or male (5000-9999),

“The new legislation must make a provision that enables the establishment of a category that is neither male nor female. That is, a sex category that caters for biological males with feminine gender identity or expression or biological females with masculine gender identity or expression in the identity system,” the document reads.

Alternatively, it suggests a random unique identity number for all citizens that is not linked to date of birth, gender, or any other marker.

According to SHE, these proposed changes mark a big step forward for trans and non-binary equality in South Africa.

“These proposed laws are progressive because it means the South African government sees and recognises transgender and non-binary people, which is precisely what we want,” said the organisation.

However, they cautioned that progressive as the proposed changes were, they could potentially backfire.

“Even though the law is progressive and gives an ‘x’ or third gender, it could lead to more discrimination.

“What happens when you go to the hospital, for example? The doctors will be able to pick up that you don’t fall on the gender binary, male or female,” said SHE.

“Our suggestion is to perhaps not show ‘male’ or ‘female’ on the document, keep that information confidential.”

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