HRW: El Salvador not complying with ruling to allow trans people to indicate gender identity on documents

Human Rights Watch (HRW) Monday released a report claiming that El Salvador’s government was not complying with a 2022 Supreme Court ruling requiring the government to allow transgender people to indicate their gender identity on government documents. Several bills have been introduced in parliament to make these processes law, but none have made it past the Committee on Women and Gender Equality for a full parliamentary vote. Lawmakers stated that the bills were “not in accordance with reality.”

The Supreme Court ruling gave one year for the government to come up with a procedure for transgender people to change their names on their government identification. The court found that the current policy violates the El Salvador Constitution, which prohibits discrimination based on gender identity. HRW’s report suggests the government should take the ruling even further and “also allow trans people to modify the gender markers in their documents, via a simple, efficient, and inexpensive administrative procedure based on self-declaration.” The report found:

In at least two cases, judges have allowed transgender people to legally change their name and sex, but only after lengthy court proceedings and on the basis that they had undergone sex reassignment surgery, an invasive legal requirement in contravention of international human rights standards.

The report goes on to detail the experiences of several trans people as they attempted to access government services. María H., a 23-year-old trans woman from La Paz, said she was denied the ability to vote because her physical presentation and name did match that of her ID, saying:

There were police guarding the entrance to the voting center and one of the police officers told me that I could not enter the premises because I was not the person on the identification card. I went to find a representative from a political party, but even after they discussed it among themselves, I was not allowed to vote. I would have filed a complaint, but I am scared of reprisals for complaining.