A Johannesburg-based non-profit on Thursday partnered with South Africa’s Department of Home Affairs to issue identity documents for transgender people.
The partnership with Iranti was done in commemoration of the Transgender Day of Visibility, which saw several trans people getting their IDs.
Trans and gender-diverse people with identity documents which do not reflect their gender identity and gender expression currently face challenges in their daily lives such as access to healthcare, travel, job opportunities and voting.
“(The Transgender Day of Visibility) is a day dedicated to celebrating the accomplishments of transgender and gender diverse persons, as well as a celebration of their contributions to society,” said Iranti Communications and Media Manager Nolwazi Tusini in a statement. “The day is also focused on raising awareness of the work that still needs to be done to end the discrimination and exclusion faced by transgender persons worldwide and ensure the protection of their human rights.”
“Iranti welcomes the Cabinet’s approval of the Identity Management Policy which seeks to ensure the protection of the rights of transgender, intersex and non-binary persons,” added Tusini. “South Africa’s Constitution defines equality as the full and equal enjoyment of all rights and liberties.”
Tusini in their statement said Iranti is “pleased that the Department of Home Affairs is proposing a progressive policy that will ensure that South African IDs are inclusive of trans, intersex and non-binary persons, as a step towards ensuring equality for all.”
“Iranti agrees with sentiments expressed by the Department of Home Affairs Chief Information Officer Sihle Mthiyane that the current South African ID numbers are cisgender binary in nature and assume that all South Africans are either cisgender male or cisgender female. Which is unfair, exclusionary and unconstitutional,” said Tusini. “In addition, Iranti supports the department’s proposal for the introduction of a random unique ID number that is not linked to or founded on a person’s sex. Potential harms towards intersex, trans and non-binary persons such as harassment, discrimination, economic exclusion and violence will be avoided as a result, as the current systems harms intersex born children.”
Tusini said Iranti opposes the proposed introduction of a gender-neutral ID number “because we believe it will lead to the othering of intersex, trans and gender diverse persons and further expose them to violence and discrimination.”
“What we need is the complete removal of sex and gender markers from identification documents, not the introduction of a gender-neutral ID number,” said Tusini. “We call on the South African government to follow the lead of other countries such as the Netherlands and Malta and discontinue the registration of a person’s sex in identity documents, as sex markers are unnecessary and add no additional clarity to who the person is.”
“Let us ensure the protection and promotion of gender minority rights by eliminating policies that segregate people based on binaries of sex or gender,” added Tusini. “The existing laws facilitate the barriers that trans and gender diverse people face in obtaining IDs, therefore, Iranti calls on the Department of Home Affairs to remove gender markers from identity documents, repeal the Alteration of Sex Descriptors and Sex Status Act which is Act 49 of 2003 and replace it with depathologized legislation, that grants trans and gender-diverse people the right to self-determination.”
There is no law in South Africa that allows trans and gender non-conforming people to amend their gender markers except for Act 49.
The law allows trans, intersex and gender non-conforming people who have begun their medical transition to change the gender marker in their identity documents to reflect their gender identity. Trans and intersex people who have sought amendments with the Department of Home Affairs have challenged the law.