Germany officially recognizing third gender at birth

Judge Ferdinand Kirchhof holds his hat at the Federal Constitutional Court in Karlsruhe Germany

The ruling could make Germany the first European country to offer a third gender option on its birth registry, according to German broadcaster Deutsche Welle.

However, the country's top court has now found that there should be the option to record sex on a birth certificate as "intersex" or "diverse".

The constitutional court in Karlsruhe has given the government until the end of 2018 to pass a law specifying a category other than male or female.

People have been allowed to leave the gender box blank since 2013, but advocates have fought for an "intersex" option after a girl brought the issue to court.

The ruling, which can not be appealed, obliges German lawmakers to legislate by the end of 2018 for a third sex, allowing new choices in birth certificate entries including "intersex", "diverse" or another "positive designation of sex".

"Being intersex relates to biological sex characteristics, and is distinct from a person's sexual orientation or gender identity", the United Nations office said in a fact sheet. In a landmark ruling, the court said that an intersex person, who is neither male nor female, is entitled to register their gender as such.

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"Forced association with male or female sex interferes with their general right to privacy, as they are obliged to fit into a binary system that does not correspond to their own sense of identity".

In 2014, the Australian high court ruled that the government should legally recognize a third gender.

The Constitutional Court was ruling on an appeal brought by an intersex person, who was registered as female although a chromosome analysis proved the plaintiff to be neither. "An intersex person may be straight, gay, lesbian, bisexual or asexual, and may identify as female, male, both or neither".

The activist group, Third Option - which has been campaigning for official recognition - said that it was "completely overwhelmed" and rendered "speechless" by the decision. "That's a small revolution in the gender area", it said on Twitter.

The court considered scrapping genders altogether before adding an option.

The UN believes between 0.05 and 1.7 per cent of the global population is intersex - about the same percentage that have red hair. And earlier this year, California became the second USA state (after New York) to allow state residents who don't identify as male or female to change their birth certificates to match their gender identity.

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