News

First steps towards ensuring equal rights for transgender persons

23 May 2019

21 May, Belgrade - Parallel to the 72nd World Health Assembly taking place this week in Geneva, Serbia’s relevant actors are taking the first steps in preparing to implement the new classification with regards to ‘depathologisation of transgender identity’ in the Republic of Serbia. This is an important step towards realizing equality and human rights for all persons, regardless of their sexual orientation, gender or beliefs. Practical implementation of this change was discussed during a meeting at the UN premises in Belgrade, which gathered representatives from the World Health Organization, Ministry of Health, Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs, Commissioner for equality, Ombudsman, UN agencies together with leading civil society organizations EGAL, GETEN, JAZAS and other.

In June 2018 the World Health Organization (WHO) announced in its newly released edition of the International Classification of Diseases (ICD), that gender incongruence will now be classified as a sexual health condition, instead of a mental disorder.  This is a key sign of progress for an often-marginalized community. The ICD 11 is ready for adoption at the World Health Assembly 72. 

 “There is no more space for discrimination and excommunication. New classification will ensure universal access to health care”, said Mrs. Snežana Pantić Aksentijević from the Ministry of Helath of the Republic of Serbia.

During the discussion in Belgrade parties proved commitment and readiness to adopt the new classification, pointing out to the issues and challenges the transgender persons are currently facing. Once the change takes effect many uncertainties remain with regards to institutional procedures and cooperation, healthcare system response, including funding, as well as practical issues such as training of healthcare staff.  

“State parties to the WHA, including Serbia, have 3 to 5 years to implement this new approach. As we can see from today’s discussion there are a number of sectors that are relevant for making sure that basic human rights of transgender population are respected. Depathologisation of transgender identity originates in the health sector, and it seems that the health sector will be the easiest to reform. A more difficult task in front of us will be to meet challenges that the society as a whole will pose with regards to this issue”, explained Milan Markovic, Head of Human Rights - United Nations in Serbia / RCO.

On European level some progress is already visible. With regards to exercising the rights of transgender persons the Council of Europe Committee of Ministers has offered recommendations that have been adopted by the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) in its recent ruling against North Macedonia, which is now the legal precedent for all such cases.

“Serbia, and many other state parties to the UN, have signed Agenda 2030. Considering that our joint moto is ‘leave no one behind’, we all must get on with it!”, explained Marija Rakovic, UNFPA Serbia Assistant Representative. “Together we will be working on mapping out necessary health services, existing and new ones that need to be introduced, working together with government bodies and CSOs. Although this as an important first step, it is only the first step, and we hope that all of us here today will remain, while new partners will join us in taking future steps in the right direction”.

Press release in Serbian