At the conference held on 22 October 2020, the Social Inclusion and Poverty Reduction Unit of the Government of the Republic of Serbia presented the Transition Guide for Transgender People in Serbia, which was prepared in cooperation with Geten, Centre for LGBTIQA People’ Rights. The target audience of the Guide are transgender people in Serbia, all those who are exploring and questioning their gender identity and expression, as well as everyone who wishes to learn more about transgender and transition.
According to Agata Milan Đurić from Geten, the multi-dimensional discrimination against transgender people leads to early leaving of the educational process, which in turn results in difficulties in employment and, ultimately, in poverty. “Therefore, it is important to have specific decentralised health care throughout Serbia, available to all who need it”, sad Đurić and highlighted the significance of empathy of the entire community and, especially, the importance of adopting a specific law on gender identity to enable persons to identify themselves and be legally recognised in accordance with their self-identification. She argued that a law of this type would regulate a series of issues in the area of family law, marital relations, inheritance and so forth. “This would enable not only the people the law refers to, but also the state, to successfully resolve very complex issues in this area”, Đurić concluded.
Dragana Jovanović Arijas, Manager of the Social Inclusion and Poverty Reduction Unit of the Government of the Republic of Serbia, stated that the steps towards legal and medical transition in Serbia were still not straightforward or entirely clear. “An important step forward is the possibility of changing one’s sex designation, which has been enabled by the Law Amending the Law on Civil Records. However, to become eligible for this possibility, one must first undergo a medical intervention, which is often neither the intention nor the possibility of transgender people. As for the possibility of changing one’s name, which is stipulated in the Family Law, it also includes a tricky precondition according to which a name must not be contrary to the tradition and convictions of the community”, Jovanović Arijas explained. As she said, the Guide enables the awareness raising of transgender people about the rights and support they can receive from institutions and civil society organisations. “Only the full awareness of this community can provide the precondition for their full participation in the processes of designing the best solutions. I expect the Guide to motivate the readers not to view the concept of gender through the lens of rigid divisions, but rather to understand it as a flexible and subjective category, and I also hope that it will enable the creation of better legislative solutions”, concluded Jovanović Arijas.
“The task ahead will be to raise the awareness of all levels of government in Serbia – local, provincial and national, including all government authorities and competent ministries in the new Government, about these issues in order to ensure the equality of all citizens”, said Ivan Bošnjak, State Secretary in the Government Ministry of Public Administration and Local Self-Government. “We will try to ensure that all issues addressed in the Guide are made known to the authorities and instances that the people undergoing transition should approach in this process”, sad Bošnjak and concluded that it would be especially important in the forthcoming period to provide training to government officials and civil servants in transgender issues, especially at the local level.
According to Jovanka Todorović from Geten, in the development of the Transition Guide for Transgender People in Serbia, it was especially challenging to include all trans identities, which are numerous. “The terminology used in the Guide is very important, especially for the general public that is keen to learn more about this area and the specific aspects of gender identities”, said Todorović.
Saša Lazić, member of Geten’s legal team, stated that the fact that surgical interventions were not a requirement for changing one’s personal documents was a major step forward, in line with the practices of the European Court of Human Rights. As he explained, the survey of the needs of the transgender community, conducted by Geten, indicated that the key problems that transgender people faced were in the sphere of medical transition, given the high costs and the frequent shortage of hormones, especially affecting trans women. “When the pandemic broke out, the supply of hormones was completely disrupted, which may cause serious health consequences”, said Lazić.
The Transition Guide for Transgender People in Serbia provides answers to the key dilemmas about transgender issues and clarifications of the most significant aspects and stages of transition (social, legal, medical), with a special reflection on the current procedures in the Republic of Serbia. Moreover, the publication presents the most important mechanisms of protection from various forms of discrimination and violence, as well as the steps to be undertaken in case of inadequate actions of the public authorities.
The recording of the conference is available here: