Gender Equality

Living Edition
| Editors: Walter Leal Filho, Anabela Marisa Azul, Luciana Brandli, Amanda Lange Salvia, Tony Wall

Gender Identity Within a Human Rights Framework: International and European Legal Aspects

  • Aleksandra Szczerba-ZawadaEmail author
  • Wiktor Dynarski
Living reference work entry


Gender identity refers to one’s self-identification as male or female, neither of these, both, or other gender(s) and is described as such in both medical and sociological literature. Gender identity may (but does not necessarily has to) be assessed upon someone’s gender expression, i.e., the behavior through which one expresses their gender by using certain pronouns, wearing certain kinds of clothing, having a particular hairstyle, etc. (Tauches et al. 2018).

In international human rights law, gender identity is defined as “each person’s deeply felt internal and individual experience of gender, which may or may not correspond with the sex assigned at birth, including the personal sense of the body (which may involve, if freely chosen, modification of bodily appearance or function by medical, surgical or other means) and other expressions of gender, including dress, speech and mannerisms” (Yogyakarta Principles 2006).

When someone experiences disjunction between gender...

This is a preview of subscription content, log in to check access.



This research was partially supported by the European Union’s Erasmus+ Program under grant Jean Monnet Module “Inclusive Society Building Through EU Studies: Human Rights Protection in the European Union” (EUIncSo), project number 574570-EPP-1-2016-1-PL-EPPJMO-MODULE.


  1. American Psychiatric Association. What is gender dysphoria? Accessed 8 Oct 2018
  2. American Sociological Association APA dictionary of psychology. Accessed 18 July 2018
  3. Brown D (2010) Making room for sexual orientation and gender identity in international human rights law: an introduction to the Yogyakarta Principles. Mich J Int’l L 31(4):821–879Google Scholar
  4. CEDAW (2010) General recommendation no. 28 on the core obligations of states parties under article 2 of the convention on the elimination of all forms of discrimination against women. CEDAW/C/GC/28Google Scholar
  5. CEDAW (2014) General recommendation no. 32 on the gender-related dimensions of refugee status, asylum, nationality and statelessness of women. CEDAW/C/GC/32Google Scholar
  6. CEDAW (2015) General recommendation no. 33 on women’s access to justice. CEDAW/C/GC/33Google Scholar
  7. CEDAW (2017a) General recommendation no. 35 on gender-based violence against women, updating general recommendation no. 19. CEDAW/C/GC/35Google Scholar
  8. CEDAW (2017b) General recommendation no. 36 on the right of girls and women to education. CEDAW/C/GC/36Google Scholar
  9. CEDAW (2018) General recommendation no. 37 on the gender-related dimensions of disaster risk reduction in the context of climate change. CEDAW/C/GC/37Google Scholar
  10. CEDAW. The convention on the elimination of all forms of discrimination against women. Accessed 14 Oct 2018
  11. Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union. OJ 2012 C 326Google Scholar
  12. CJEU. K.B. v National Health Service Pensions Agency and Secretary of State for Health, C-117/01. EU:C:2004:7Google Scholar
  13. CJEU. MB v Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, C-451/16. EU:C:2018:492Google Scholar
  14. CJEU. P v S and Cornwall County Council, C-13/94. EU:C:1996:170Google Scholar
  15. Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment. Accessed 26 Sept 2018
  16. Council Directive 75/117/EEC of 10 February 1975 on the approximation of the laws of the Member States relating to the application of the principle of equal pay for men and women. OJ 1975 L 45Google Scholar
  17. Council directive 79/7/EEC of 19 December 1978 on the progressive implementation of the principle of equal treatment for men and women in matters of social security. OJ 1979 L 6Google Scholar
  18. Council of Europe (2011a) Discrimination on grounds of sexual orientation and gender identity in Europe. 2nd edn. p 37.
  19. Council of Europe (2011b) Combating discrimination on grounds of sexual orientation or gender identity. Council of Europe standards, p 5.
  20. Dembour M-B (2005) Why should biological sex be decisive? Transsexualism before the European court of human rights. In: Shaw A, Ardener S (eds) Changing sex and beyond. Berghahn Books, New York/Oxford, pp 39–59Google Scholar
  21. Directive 2004/113/EC of 13 December 2004 implementing the principle of equal treatment between men and women in the access to and supply of goods and services. OJ 2004 L 373Google Scholar
  22. Directive 2006/54/EC of 5 July 2006 on the implementation of the principle of equal opportunities and equal treatment of men and women in matters of employment and occupation (recast) OJ 2006 L 204Google Scholar
  23. Directive 2011/95/EU of the European Parliament and of the Council of 13 December 2011 on standards for the qualification of third-country nationals or stateless persons as beneficiaries of international protection, for a uniform status for refugees or for persons eligible for subsidiary protection, and for the content of the protection granted. OJ 2011 L 337Google Scholar
  24. Directive 2012/29/EU of the European Parliament and of the Council of 25 October 2012 establishing minimum standards on the rights, support and protection of victims of crime, and replacing Council Framework Decision 2001/220/JHA. OJ 2012 L 315Google Scholar
  25. Directive 2013/32/EU of the European Parliament and of the Council of 26 June 2013 on common procedures for granting and withdrawing international protection. OJ 2013 L 180Google Scholar
  26. Dolgin J (2017) Discriminating gender: legal, medical, and social presumptions about transgender and intersex people. Southwest Univ Law Rev 47(1):61–113Google Scholar
  27. Dorey K (2016) The sustainable development goals and LGBT inclusion. Stonewall International, LondonGoogle Scholar
  28. Dynarski W, Grodzka A, Podobińska L (2010) Tożsamość płciowa – zagadnienia medyczne, społeczne i prawne. In: Śledzińska-Simon A (ed) Prawa osób transseksualnych. Rozwiązania modelowe a sytuacja w Polsce. Wolters Kluwer, Warszawa, pp 21–38Google Scholar
  29. EC Treaty. Treaty establishing the European Community (Consolidated version 2002). OJ 2002 C 325Google Scholar
  30. ECtHR. X, Y and Z v. the United Kingdom, application no. 21830/93. CE:ECHR:1997:0422JUD002183093Google Scholar
  31. ECtHR. Christine Goodwin v. The United Kingdom, application no. 28957/95. CE:ECHR:2002:0711JUD002895795Google Scholar
  32. ECtHR. Hämäläinen v. Finland, application no. 37359/09. CE:ECHR:2014:0716JUD003735909Google Scholar
  33. ECtHR. Y. Y. v. Turkey, application no. 14793/08. CE:ECHR:2015:0310JUD001479308Google Scholar
  34. ECtHR. B. v. France, application no. 13343/87. CE:ECHR:1992:0325JUD001334387Google Scholar
  35. Ellis E, Watson P (2012) EU anti-discrimination law. Oxford University Press, Oxford, p 458CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Enke FA (2012) The education of little cis: cisgender and the discipline of opposing bodies. In: Enke FA (ed) Tranfeminist perspectives in and beyond transgender and gender studies. Temple University Press, Philadelphia, pp 63–64Google Scholar
  37. Fellmeth AX (2011) Choice of gender identity in international human rights law. In: Arsanjani MH, Cogan J, Sloane R, Wiessner S (eds) Looking to the Future. Essays on International Law in Honor of W. Michael Reisman. Martinus Nijhoff Publishers, Leiden/Boston, pp 499–516Google Scholar
  38. HRC. Resolution A/HRC/RES/27/32. Human rights, sexual orientation and gender identity. Accessed 26 Sept 2018
  39. HRC. Resolution A/HRC/RES/32/2. Protection against violence and discrimination based on ICD-11 for mortality and morbidity Statistics (2018). Accessed 26 Sept 2018
  40. HRC. Resolution A/HRC/RES/17/19. Human rights, sexual orientation and gender identity. Accessed 26 Sept 2018
  41. International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. Accessed 26 Sept 2018
  42. International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights. Accessed 26 Sept 2018
  43. Kaltiala-Heino R et al (2018) Gender dysphoria in adolescence: current perspectives. Adolesc Health Med Ther. Scholar
  44. Korkiamäki IS (2014) Legal gender recognition and (lack of) equality in the European court of human rights. Equal Rights Review 13:20–51Google Scholar
  45. Lahuerta SB (2016) Taking EU equality law to the next level: in search of coherence. Eur Labour Law J 7(3):358 et seq. Scholar
  46. Manandhara M et al (2018) Gender, health and the 2030 agenda for sustainable development. Bull World Health Organ 96:644–653. Scholar
  47. OHCHR. Report A/HRC/19/41. Discriminatory laws and practices and acts of violence against individuals based on their sexual orientation and gender identity. Accessed 26 Sept 2018
  48. OHCHR. Report A/HRC/29/23. Discrimination and violence against individuals based on their sexual orientation and gender identity. Accessed 26 Sept 2018
  49. Parker A (2016) A development agenda for sexual and gender minorities. The Williams Institute, Los AngelesGoogle Scholar
  50. Pearce R (2018) Understanding trans health. Discourse, power and possibility. Policy Press, University of Bristol, BristolCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  51. Tauches K et al. Transgender. Gender identity. Accessed 18 July 2018
  52. TFEU. Consolidated version of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union. OJ 2012 C 326Google Scholar
  53. TGEU Transgender Europe (2015) TGEU’s Activist’s guide on trans people’s rights under EU Law, p 4.
  54. UN General Assembly. Resolution A/RES/70/1. Transforming our world: the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. Accessed 24 May 2019
  55. UN Human Rights Office (2012) Born free and equal. Sexual orientation and gender identity in International Human Rights Law, p 10.
  56. UN Human Rights Office Independent Expert on sexual orientation and gender identity. Accessed 18 July 2018
  57. Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Accessed 26 Sept 2018
  58. Voss MJ (2018) Contesting Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity at the UN Human Rights Council. Hum Rights Rev 19(1):1–22CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  59. Wintemute R (2017) In extending human rights, which European Court is substantively ‘Braver’ and procedurally ‘Fitter’? The example of sexual orientation and gender identity discrimination. In: Morano-Foadi S, Vickers L (eds) Fundamental rights in the EU. A matter for two courts. Hart Publishing, Oxford/Portland, pp 179–200Google Scholar
  60. Yogyakarta Principles (2006). Accessed 18 July 2018
  61. Yogyakarta Principles plus 10 (2017). Accessed 18 July 2018

Copyright information

© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2020

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Faculty of Administration and National SecurityThe Jacob of Paradies UniversityGorzów WielkopolskiPoland
  2. 2.Institute of Applied Social Sciences, Centre for Social Studies on SexualityUniversity of WarsawWarsawPoland

Section editors and affiliations

  • Katarzyna Cichos
    • 1
  1. 1.Cardinal Stefan Wyszynski University in WarsawWarsawPoland