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Argentine gender rights world's best: activists

BUENOS AIRES -- Activists say Argentina now leads the world in transgender rights after giving people the freedom to change their legal and physical gender identity simply because they want to, without having to undergo judicial, psychiatric and medical procedures beforehand.

The gender identity law that won congressional approval with a 55-0 senate vote Wednesday night is the latest in a growing list of bold moves on social issues by the Argentine government, which also legalized gay marriage two years ago. These changes primarily affect minority groups, but they are fundamental, President Cristina Fernandez has said, for a democratic society still shaking off the human rights violations of the 1976-1983 dictatorship and the paternalism of the Roman Catholic Church.

Activists and academics who have tracked gender identity laws and customs worldwide said Thursday that no other country has gone so far to embrace gender self-determination. In the United States and Europe, transgender people must submit to physical and mental health exams and get past a series of other hurdles before getting sex-change treatments.

Argentina's law also is the first to give citizens the right to change their legal gender without first changing their bodies, said Justus Eisfeld, co-director of Global Action for Trans Equality in New York.

β€œThe fact that there are no medical requirements at all β€” no surgery, no hormone treatment and no diagnosis β€” is a real game changer and completely unique in the world. It is light years ahead of the vast majority of countries, including the U.S., and significantly ahead of even the most advanced countries,” said Eisfeld, who researched the laws of the 47 countries for the Council of Europe's human rights commission.

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