Press Release

IACHR Welcomes Change by WHO to Stop Regarding Gender Identity as a Disorder

July 18, 2018

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Washington, D.C. – The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) welcomes the change made by the World Health Organization (WHO) in its International Statistical Classification of Diseases and Related Health Problems 11 (ICD-11), removing all diagnostic categories that regarded trans persons as having a health disorder or illness. The IACHR recommends that States revise and change all medical classifications that pathologize persons with diverse sexual orientations, real or perceived gender identities and bodily diversities.

According to the WHO classification, trans identities are no longer considered a disease or, in medical terms, “a desire to live and be accepted as a member of the opposite sex, usually accompanied by the wish to make one’s body as congruent as possible with one’s preferred sex through surgery and hormonal treatment.” Instead, the WHO adopts the definition of a gender incongruence, that is, a “marked and persistent incongruence between an individual’s experienced gender and the assigned sex.” “Gender variant behavior and preferences alone are not a basis for assigning the diagnoses in this group,” the WHO says in ICD-11.

The Inter-American Commission notes that the right to personal identity is a grounding element of human character and that failing to recognize it directly impacts on trans persons’ comprehensive enjoyment of their human rights. In this context, “it is vital for States to fully recognize gender diversity, in order to guarantee the full exercise of all the human rights of all trans and gender-diverse persons, including protection from violence and adequate access to healthcare, education, employment and housing,” said Flávia Piovesan, the IACHR’s Rapporteur on the Rights of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Persons.

The IACHR calls upon States to decriminalize and depathologize trans and gender-diverse identities and to ban “conversion therapies.” The Commission further asks States to refrain from adopting new criminalizing legislation and/or pathologizing medical classifications. The IACHR also urges States to grant equal access to healthcare and gender-affirming treatment to anyone who requests them.

A principal, autonomous body of the Organization of American States (OAS), the IACHR derives its mandate from the OAS Charter and the American Convention on Human Rights. The Inter-American Commission has a mandate to promote respect for and to defend human rights in the region and acts as a consultative body to the OAS in this area. The Commission is composed of seven independent members who are elected in an individual capacity by the OAS General Assembly and who do not represent their countries of origin or residence.

No. 153/18