Since Monday, Gabriela Bankova – a courageous trans woman fighting for a dignified life – has been on hunger strike in front of the Court House because the Sofia District Court denied her request to change her gender marker in the civil registers (the so-called legal gender recognition).
Gabby is one of many people in Bulgaria born with one genital sex but living with a psychological (neurocerebral) sex that does not match their body. Some of these people live in daily anguish over this mismatch and wish to adopt looks, names and pronouns consistent with their self-determination and for the state to recognize this self-determination as socially more significant than their genitals.
The Bulgarian state has refused to do so following decisions by the Constitutional Court and the Supreme Court of Cassation, which blocked trans people in Bulgaria from accessing a procedure to change the sex registered in their civil registers. Such a change was allowed by the Bulgarian court for decades in accordance with medical prescriptions. Not anymore.
For several days the authorities of the Ministry of Interior and Sofia Municipality have been trying to impose undue limitations on Gabi's protest on formal grounds, which, however, have no basis in law, and today she was arrested and taken to the 1st Police Department in Sofia. This repression, which deliberately attempts to silence and erase trans people and their discontent, is a gross violation of the basic human rights to peaceful assembly and expression.
The Republic of Bulgaria has for years failed to introduce a "quick, transparent and accessible procedure" for legal gender recognition in accordance with Resolution 2048 (2015) of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, and in 2020 Bulgaria was found to be in violation by the European Court of Human Rights in the case Y.T. v. Bulgaria precisely for the refusal of the Bulgarian courts to allow such a change.
We call on the authorities to engage in dialogue with the trans community, with civil society organisations working to achieve equal rights for transgender people and to amend legislation promptly to regulate a legal gender recognition procedure that meets international standards.