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Report on Legal Recognition of Gender Identity and Depathologization

Issued by

Independent Expert on sexual orientation and gender identity


12 July 2018


Issued by Special Procedures


Sexual orientation and gender identity

Symbol Number



The end of classifying certain genders as disorders


In June 2017, Independent Expert Vitit Muntarbhorn presented his inaugural report to the Human Rights Council titled “diversity in humanity, humanity in diversity” (A/HRC/35/36). In it, he identifies six underpinnings for the mandate on protection from violence and discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity:

  • the decriminalization of consensual same-sex relations and of gender identity and expression;
  • effective anti-discrimination measures
  • the legal recognition of gender identity
  • destigmatization linked with depathologization
  • sociocultural inclusion; and
  • education with empathy.

The Independent Expert elaborates on the first two underpinnings in his 2017 report to the UN General Assembly (A/72/172). The title of the report is “Embrace diversity and energize humanity”. 

His successor analyses the third and fourth underpinnings in the present report, presented to the General Assembly in October 2018.

Watch the interactive dialogue at the General Assembly


The Independent Expert examines the process of abandoning the classification of certain forms of gender as “pathologies”. He clarifies the duty that State have to respect, and promote respect of gender recognition as a component of identity. He also highlights some effective measures to ensure respect of gender identity, and provides guidance to States on how to address violence and discrimination based on gender identity.

Watch the press briefing of the report, 28 October 2018.

Read the press release.


Open consultation (2018)

The Independent Expert held a consultation on 19 June 2018 in Geneva to exchange views with participants on the scope of legal recognition of gender identity, and destigmatization linked with depathologization.

The following points were discussed:

  • Good practices and challenges with regard to gender recognition procedures aimed at giving official recognition to a transgender person’s gender identity;
  • Human rights violations and abuses that transgender persons face when such recognition is not available and when their identification documents do not reflect their self-perceived gender identity;
  • Pathologization and the branding of persons as “ill” based on their sexual orientation, gender identity or gender expression as one of the root causes behind the human rights violations that lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender persons face. In particular, the Independent Expert welcomed information and views on the intersection of these problematics with global processes such as ICD11 (WHO) and other relevant processes;
  • Violence in health-care settingsthat transgender persons face such as involuntary psychiatric evaluations, unwanted surgeries, sterilization or other coercive medical procedures, often justified by discriminatory medical classifications; and
  • Measures adopted toban so-called “conversion” therapies and other practices that are harmful to patients, may cause severe pain and suffering, and lead to depression, anxiety and suicidal ideation.

Participants also explored good practices and gaps at international, regional and national levels on the two topics of the consultation. Moreover, this platform of dialogue facilitated the exchange of experiences, knowledge, and lessons learned among participants.

See the background note (English | Français | Español)

Previous consultation (2017) and call for inputs

The mandate held consultations on the overall objective of the mandate on 24 and 25 January 2017 in Geneva, and sent a questionnaire in May 2017 requesting inputs regarding the six underpinnings mentioned above, with particular focus on the following areas:

  • the current situation in the country/region;
  • key laws, policies and practices, including good practices; and
  • legal cases including court judgements.

Through these means, the Independent expert received the input of over a hundred stakeholders. He took these into consideration when elaborating the present report.

Inputs Received
Inputs Received