Gay interest group COC Netherlands is of the opinion that the city of Amsterdam's decision to strike gender registration in forms as much as legally possible, is a step in the right direction and a good example for other Dutch municipalities.
COC President Tanja Ineke: “The decision of the municipality of Amsterdam will contribute to the eventual complete disappearance of gender registration. The COC advocates this, as gender registration is superfluous, outmoded and forces people into a category they do not always feel comfortable with.”
In response to written questions from the Amsterdam D66 councillor Mr Jan-Bert Vroege, the bench of Mayor and aldermen has replied that on the 1st of January of 2016 at the latest, all digital and physical forms of the city will be screened on gender designation. This compulsory option will be removed, unless it is a legal necessity. This point of departure will be included in the style guide for civil servants. The city of Amsterdam will continue its inquiry after the title ‘Mr. /Ms.’ for direct mailing, but the user can choose not to provide an answer. In the template tool all civil servants use to write letters with, this was already changed into ‘male,’ ‘female,’ ‘unknown,’ or ‘not applicable’. Amsterdam civil servants therefore can consciously choose a non-gender specific option.
Since 2012, COC Netherlands has been arguing for the abolition of compulsory gender registration in official documentation, such as passports. A majority in the Dutch Lower House, consisting of the parties D66, GroenLinks, PvdA and VVD support this, and in March, Minister Ard van der Steur (Safety and Justice) called compulsory gender registration ‘old fashioned’ during a parliamentary debate on this issue.
Meanwhile, Minister Van der Steur has set up an interdepartmental work group to make propositions to restrict the use and disclosure of gender by the government. This work group will also investigate whether gender registration is necessary in identification, and which legislation should be changed. The Minister has also asked the Dutch Committee of State for Parenthood Re-evaluation to come with gender neutral proposals for parenthood legislation. The Minister will work out his commitment in a letter that will go the Dutch Lower House after its summer break.
In Australia, Malta and New Zealand, it is already possible to strike out the category ‘m’ or ‘f’ with an ‘x’. The study WODC M/V en verder, which was published last March, shows that abolition of gender registration does not cause insurmountable problems. The researchers argue that international agreements do not ‘stand in the way of changing the system’. From a human rights perspective, the researchers see ‘an incentive for breaking through binary gender registration’.
Besides Amsterdam, D66 has also filed a request to abolish unnecessary gender registration with the municipalities of Utrecht and Westland. D66 councillor Anne-Marijke Podt has asked the municipality to list in which forms of the city the gender indication can be removed. D66 in Westland also wants the municipality to stop asking for the ‘maiden name’. According to D66 councillor Maxim van Ooijen, asking for the maiden name is ‘absurd,’ as since 1998, everyone in the Netherlands can chose whether to use their own last name or their partner’s last name.