The Bundestag passed the change in the law on Thursday and it means Germans can state a gender as “divers” which translates as “diverse” or “various” on birth certificates.
It means people born as intersex, a broad term encompassing people who have sex traits, such as genitals or chromosomes, that do not entirely fit with a typical binary notion of male and female, can be registered in this way.
The change in the law also allows for birth certificates to be changed retrospectively if the wrong gender was previously chosen at birth. Germans will also be able to change their first name on their birth certificate if they feel their gender was entered incorrectly. For both, however, a medical certificate is usually required.
The move came after Germany’s highest court ruled last year that it was unconstitutional to force people to choose if they were either male or female.
According to the United Nations, between 0.05 and 1.7 percent of the global population are intersex — about the same percentage as people with red hair.
Sometimes this is apparent at birth, at other times it becomes noticeable in puberty.
Since 2013 Germany has allowed babies born with characteristics of both sexes to leave the gender options of male and female blank.
The Federal Constitutional Court gave parliament until the end of 2018 to amend the current legislation.
The decision was in favour of an appeal brought by an intersex adult and said that courts and state authorities should no longer compel intersex people to choose between identifying as male or female.
However, advocacy groups argue that the resulting legislation doesn't go far enough. According to them, in most cases, it requires people to produce a doctor's certificate to change their status.
The lesbian and gay association of Germany (LSVD) as well as some politicians, including from the Green party and the Social Democrats, criticized the move saying that intersexuality was about more than just physical attributes, and that evidence in the form of a medical certificate should not be required.
LSVD board member Henny Engels stressed “that gender cannot be determined solely by physical characteristics, but is also determined by social and psychological factors”, DPA reported.
Meanwhile, centre-right Christian Democrats (CDU) MP Marc Henrichmann argued that the official civil register must be based on evidence rather than self-assessments.