Rees v. the United Kingdom (European Court of Human Rights)

A female-to-male transsexual complained that United Kingdom law did not confer on him a legal status corresponding to his actual condition.

The European Court of Human Rights held in 1986 that there had been no violation of  Article 8 (right to respect for private and family life) of the European Convention on  Human Rights. The changes demanded by the applicant would had involved fundamentally modifying the system for keeping the register of births, which would have had important administrative consequences and imposed new duties on the rest of the population. Furthermore, the Court attached importance to the fact that the United Kingdom had borne the costs of the applicant’s medical treatment.

However, the Court was conscious “of the seriousness of the problems affecting  transsexuals and of their distress” and recommended “keeping the need for appropriate measures under review, having regard particularly to scientific and societal developments” (§ 47 of the judgment).

The Court also held that there had been no violation of Article 12 (right to marry and found a family) of the Convention. It found that the traditional concept of marriage was based on union between persons of opposite biological sex. States had the power to regulate the right to marry.

Rees v. UK.

 

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