Sexual orientation and gender identity
Sexual orientation and gender identity

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Sexual orientation and gender identity

5 Global approaches

As you have worked your way through this course you will have seen some references to the experience of homosexuals, trans people and those with intersex conditions in other countries.

In the last section you saw that there is some recognition of intersex as a separate gender category in Nepal, India, Bangladesh, Australia and Germany. New Zealand and Pakistan could be added to this list. However, this leaves the UK, together with the vast majority of countries, as not recognising intersex as a third gender for legal purposes.

Even where intersex is recognised as a third category the full legal implications – for example, in relation to marriage – are not clear.

  • Can an intersex person who is recognised as intersex legally marry? If so, can an intersex person marry (a) a man, (b) a woman or (c) someone who is also intersex?
  • Is being recognised as intersex a matter of personal choice, medical examination or something else?
  • Should the UK be one of the first countries to recognise intersex as a separate legal category?

The UK was one of the last European countries to allow trans people to be recognised in the gender with which they identify. While the UK may have been slow to act, the Gender Recognition Act 2004 has created one of the most progressive legal regimes in terms of its preparedness to recognise people in their preferred gender without requiring them to undergo surgery or hormone replacement therapy.

Global approaches to homosexuality are probably the area where differences in legal treatment are most marked. 

The BBC News articles, ‘Where is it illegal to be gay? [Tip: hold Ctrl and click a link to open it in a new tab. (Hide tip)] ’ (2014) and ‘Gay marriage around the world’ (2013c) highlight the stark differences in where it is illegal to be gay or lesbian, and where gay marriage is permitted. In relation to the UK, however, it is worth remembering (from the the gay and lesbian timeline) that sex between men was illegal in England and Wales until 1967, the age of consent was not equalised until 2000, and the first gay marriages did not take place until 2014.


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