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New UAE law allows gender reassignment surgery

ABU DHABI // A new Medical Liability Law was enacted to allow gender reassignment surgery, which was previously difficult.

The law states that the surgical procedures "by which a transgender person’s physical appearance and function of their existing sexual characteristics are altered to resemble that of their identified gender" is permitted if it is "part of a treatment for gender dysphoria in transgender people, as advised by a medical commission to be set up for this purpose".

Before the new law, a fatwa issued by Awqaf – the General Authority for Islamic Affairs and Endowments – said such operations were permitted only for those whose "physical features may be different to their physiological and biological characteristics, such as a person with male features who is in reality female and vice versa".

The fatwa applied to "people with both sex organs or those with unclear features that don’t indicate a gender".

It said this applied to anomalies that were "considered medical conditions".

It said the gender correction surgery was "acceptable because it is treatment for a medical condition and not a deliberate modification of God’s creation".

The operation was permissible "if medical professionals are convinced that the individual is in fact a male or female, and the authorities have all agreed".

Although there was no law criminalising a sex-change operation, it was allowed only within the framework issued by Awqaf.

"Our laws are based on Sharia," said Salm Al Kithiri, an Emirati lawyer. "If a person has both organs and one is hidden, for example, they have a right to undergo a sex-change operation. But a complete woman with female organs wanting a sex-change operation was unacceptable."

Ali Al Mansoori, the lawyer representing a 29-year old Emirati woman who wants the surgery, said that before the new law gender reassignment surgery was difficult for individuals with gender dysphoria – not because it was illegal but because there was no law governing it.



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