Transgender People In Chile Can Now Legally Change Their Gender On Official Documents

L.G.B.T. activists and their supporters rally in support of transgender people on the steps of New York City Hall
Drew Angerer / Getty Images

Transgender people 14-years-old and older in Chile will now be legally allowed to change their gender marker on official documents thanks to a bill signed into law by President Sebastian Pinera today. Chilean activists have been fighting for nearly five years to pass such a law, which human rights groups are praising as “historic,” according to Pink News.

“This historic decision marks a milestone for LGBTQ rights in Chile and in South America,” said Human Rights Campaign Global Director Ty Cobb.

“We commend the efforts of all the LGBTQ advocates involved, including our Chilean partners at Fundación Iguales, who worked tirelessly for five years to achieve this victory. While this legislation removes roadblocks for many trans people, there is still important progress to be made – especially for transgender youth.”

The bill was first introduced in 2013 by former President Michelle Bachelet, whose second term ended in March of 2018. Years of debate followed, as well as opposition campaigns from conservative and religious groups in the country. Chile is often considered to be a conservative nation due to a large Catholic population. Abortion is illegal in the country with few exceptions, and until 2017 allowed no exceptions to the ban. It was also one of the last countries in the world to legalize divorce, keeping the practice illegal until 2004.

President of the Republic of Chile Sebastian Pinera is welcomed at Government House
Chilean President Sebastian Pinera Fiona Goodall / Getty Images

This victory for transgender rights was largely due to the efforts of the Chilean LGBT rights group Fundación Iguales. The foundation’s executive president, Juan Enrique Pi Arriagada, called the signing of the bill a “historic landmark.”

“After years of fighting to ensure their legal recognition, we celebrate this historic triumph that will change the lives of many of those who, for far too long, lacked protections and lived in the shadows,” he said.

The statement from the Human Rights Campaign stressed that there is still more work to do for transgender rights in Chile. The organization criticized the bill for not applying the right to change one’s gender marker for people under the age of 14 and said that this restriction will prevent the Chilean government from obtaining an accurate number of trans people in the country.

According to National Geographic, over a third of all countries on Earth allow residents to change their gender marker on documents such as passports and birth certificates. This includes over half of the countries in South America now that the Chilean bill has been officially signed into law.