Several international and regional human rights instruments offer rights protections related to CRVS systems: 

  • the right to register a birth, death, marriage, and divorce; 
  • the right to one’s own identity; 
  • the right to life, health, and privacy; 
  • the right of the family to protection; 
  • the right of children to be cared for by their parents, among others. 

Proving one’s identity is also a condition for exercising the fundamental rights to vote, own property, work, migrate, receive an education, receive social security, and maintain an adequate standard of living, among others. 

To respect, fulfil and protect the human rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex (LGBTI) individuals, civil registration and identity management laws should be based on individuals’ self-defined gender identity without requirements for verification by others. They should allow the use of more than two sex or gender options (such as “X”, “intersex”, “undetermined”, or “unspecified”) for people that do not identify in the category of male or female and eliminate sex and gender markers where their use is not necessary. 

A laughing couple hugging in a park

The administrative process to change name and gender must be established under the law to be quick, transparent, and accessible; provided for free or at a low cost without requiring an age limit, diagnosis, or treatment of any kind and without discrimination on any basis. Laws must also establish a simplified process for aligning gender and name changes across all civil registration and identity documents following a gender or name change in a foundational document. CRVS laws must also protect the privacy rights of LGBTI persons and equally treat same-sex, gender-diverse and different-sex couples. 

During birth registration, it is a best practice for a civil registration law to allow unlimited time for the determination of sex where the sex of a child is unknown or unclear. Similarly, laws governing naming should provide a certain level of flexibility to allow unisex or sex-neutral names. Sex markers should be removed from birth certificates or alternatively individuals could be provided with copies that do not have sex markers. Since parents have the right to have their self-defined genders recorded in the birth certificate of their child, birth registration forms should include the gender-neutral term “parent/s” or allow parents to self-designate as “mother” or “father” or simply “parent” of the child. 

Registration forms for marriage/civil union and divorce/dissolution should replace the terms “bride” and “groom” with gender-neutral terms or alternatively allow the couple to choose “bride”, “groom” or a gender-neutral term. Similarly, when an individual dies, civil documents including the Medical Certification of Cause of Death, death registration record, and the death certificate should all record the self-defined gender identity of the deceased. A person responsible for completing a medical certificate of cause of death (a coroner, medical examiner, or physician) may be challenged to determine and record the sex of a deceased whose physical characteristics do not match with their self-identified gender or the gender information on their identity documents. To address these challenges, laws have been adopted in some jurisdictions to allow individuals to pre-designate their gender and have the same information reported on death certificates and records upon death, and in others to require the certifying physician to record the gender reported by informants of death.