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Christine Goodwin v. the United Kingdom (application no. 28957/95), July 11, 2002

Facts: The applicant, Christine Goodwin, a United Kingdom national born in 1937, is a post-operative male to female transsexual. She claimed that she had problems and faced sexual harassment at work during and following her gender re-assignment. She also alleged that the fact that she keeps the same NI number has meant that her employer has been able to discover that she previously worked for them under another name and gender, with resulting embarrassment and humiliation.

Complaints: Relying on Articles 8, 12, 13 and 14 of the Convention, the applicant complained about her treatment in relation to employment, social security and pensions and her inability to marry

Holding: The ECHR found a violation of Article 8 (right to respect for private and family life) of the European Convention on Human Rights; a violation of Article 12 (right to marry and to found a family); and did not find a violation of Article 13 (right to an effective remedy). It found that no separate issue had arisen under Article 14 (prohibition of discrimination)

Reasoning: No concrete or substantial hardship or detriment to the public interest had been demonstrated as likely to flow from any change to the status of transsexuals. Society might reasonably be expected to tolerate a certain inconvenience to enable individuals to live in dignity and worth in accordance with the sexual identity chosen by them at great personal cost. It concluded that the fair balance that was inherent in the Convention now tilted decisively in favor of the applicant. There had, accordingly, been a failure to respect her right to private life in breach of Article 8. The Court also found no justification for barring the transsexual from enjoying the right to marry under any circumstances. It concluded that there had been a breach of Article 12. The case-law of the Convention institutions indicated that Article 13 could not be interpreted as requiring a remedy against the state of domestic law. In the circumstances no breach of Article 13 arose. The lack of legal recognition of the change of gender of a post-operative transsexual laid at the heart of the applicant's complaints under Article 14 of the Convention and had been examined under Article 8 so there was no separate issue arose under Article 14.

 

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