The French senate has unanimously voted to prohibit discrimination against transgender people.
During a session of the Senate to adopt of a bill against sexual harassment, discrimination against transgender people was added to the French penal code.
Before the vote Michelle Miller, Socialist Party Senator pleaded: ‘Transgender people have alerted us to high frequency of harassment and assaults they experience, particularly during the transition period that can last several years. It seems necessary to me to complete the law on discrimination and to add recognition of transphobia’.
Several other senators from both right and left of the political spectrum made similarly impassioned appeals.
The criteria ‘sexual identity’ was inserted into the legislation that prohibits discrimination yesterday (12 July). Sexual orientation is already covered.
Inter-LGBT, France’s largest LGBT rights group welcomed the vote as the step in the right direction, although stating that legislation is ‘imperfect'.
In an interview with the French daily Liberation, Nicolas Gougain, spokesperson of Inter-LGBT said: 'This is a very important decision.
'Until now, Article 225-1 of the penal code, which defines the contexts of discrimination, did not include discrimination based on gender identity - a term used in European legislation.
'The Senate amended the code using the term “sexual identity”, a term which is less satisfactory, but it is a first step.’
In a press release the French Transgender National Association protested against the use of term ‘sexual identity’ which it claims will leave the determination of discrimination entirely to the judge’s discretion as the concept is not defined by law.
This was echoed in the discussion during the Senate’s session where Senator Annie David (Communist Party) stated: ‘The debate needs to be opened.
'Gender identity is not sexual identity: one can be born into male or female without a corresponding gender identity.’
In 2010 France became the first country in the world to delist transsexualism from the category of mental illness.
A recent poll of young transgender people in France found that 34% said they have attempted suicide, while 19% have been disowned by their family.
According to the US National Transgender Discrimination Survey of 2011, 26% of transgender people lose their jobs following an announcement of their transition. And 52% reported incidents of discrimination with 19% finding themselves homeless as a result.