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Could all passports and IDs in the future be gender-neutral? The Dutch think they should

Could all passports and IDs in the future be gender-neutral? The Dutch think they should

  • The Netherlands is removing all gender markers on national identification documents in the next five years.
Passport in back pocket.

The Dutch government thinks all passports in the future should be gender neutral and is scrapping gender markers on its national ID documents.

The Netherlands is already one of the few countries in the world to allow people to have ‘X’ rather than ‘M’ or ‘F’ passports.

Now it is going further by saying it won’t put people’s gender on national identification cards in the future.

It’s keeping the gender markers on passports for now – due to international aviation rules.

However, it says that if enough European Union member states back the change in future, passports should become totally gender neutral too.

Education Minister Ingrid van Engelshoven said gender markers were ‘unnecessary’ details. Moreover, she said the changes will remove obstacles for transgender and intersex people from ‘fully participating in the society’.

The change to national identity cards will come in five years time. That is at the same time as other changes to the documents, in order to save costs.

Meanwhile the cities of Utrecht and Amsterdam have removed questions about gender from many of their official forms. And the Dutch government jobs website no longer requires that applicants state their gender.

Do we need genders on birth certificates, driver licenses or passports?

The Netherlands is following a path set out by LGBT+ experts in 2017. In that year, they updated the 2007 Yogyakarta Principles. The principles are a guide to the future of LGBT+ rights around the world.

They said countries should ‘end the registration of the sex and gender of the person in identity documents such as birth certificates, identification cards, passports, and driver licenses, and as part of their legal personality’.

Moreover, in 2018, the United Nations Independent Expert on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity also questioned whether the ‘pervasive exhibition of gender markers in official and non-official documentation’ was necessary.

Human Rights Watch has welcomed the new Dutch policy as more inclusive for trans and non-binary people. 

And it added: ‘There is precedent for removing information from IDs, as not relevant to the purpose of the document.

‘Many countries have removed personal characteristics such as race, religion, or marital status.

‘The primary purpose of an identity document is to ensure that the person is who they say they are. Race or gender markers do not create additional clarity.

‘The Netherlands’ decision puts into sharp focus the question whether gender markers on ID documents are redundant and potentially harmful.’

For many, the Dutch vision of a future without official gender markers may seem far-fetched. However, so was a world with marriage equality when the Netherlands started same-sex weddings in 2001.