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Doing away with gender

A new law being proposed in Israel’s Knesset seeks to get rid of the gender category on the country’s identity cards. Tamar Zandberg of the Meretz Party introduced the bill this past Monday, at the start of international LGBTQ month. Zandberg explained, “There is a minority that experiences an incongruity between gender and biological sex, and those who want to change their sex in the registry but experience difficulty with Interior Ministry bureaucrats, the Health Ministry and the establishment.”

Zandberg cited as precedent Israel’s removal of the nationality category from identification cards. Before 2005, ID cards included a category with the Hebrew word l’ohm, which is translated as nationality, but was more about ethnicity, not citizenship. The most common ethnicities were Jewish, Arab, Druze, Circassian. While it seems like something of a technical issue, there have been legal dust-ups over the categories. In 2002, the Israeli Supreme Court ruled that a Reform convert qualified to have Jewish on their identity card, despite the fact that the chief rabbinate does not recognize Reform conversions. The Sephardic Orthodox Shas party subsequently backed the removal of the whole category.

Still, there is little international precedent for removing the category of gender, though that seems to be changing. Nepal, Australia and New Zealand currently have options for gender-neutral documentation, while two British lawmakers joined a petition asking the government to allow for gender-neutral IDs. In the United States, San Francisco eliminated gender from city-issued IDs; a similar measure is slated to be enacted in late 2013 in Los Angeles.

 

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