Civil registration and vital statistics (CRVS) systems impact people’s lives, and the aggregate data collected affects decisions made by a government on health policy issues. Through the civil registration process, individuals prove their identity and civil and marital status while governments gain the evidence base for making administrative decisions to impact diverse groups of individuals in a population.
A legal identity is a legal construct that is conferred through civil registration processes. A legal identity includes an individual’s basic characteristics such as name, sex, date and place of birth. A gender identity, on the other hand, is an individual’s own experience of gender which they are entitled to have indicated in their legal identity. The way gender is understood and reflected within the structure of a CRVS system determines whether the system is inclusive of all gender groups and individuals with varying sexual orientations.
Traditionally, CRVS systems have been structured in a way that is inclusive only of people who are cisgender and heterosexual, and those that fit into binary sex and gender categories. Civil registration services in such systems are characterized by legal requirements, binary sex terminologies, and practices that are discriminate against lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex (LGBTI) individuals. Where this is the case, registration forms would usually require the assignment of a ‘female’ or ‘male’ sex and recording of information about ‘mother’ and ‘father’ in the case of newborns and ‘bride’ and ‘groom’ for newlyweds.
To better serve individuals in diverse gender categories and protect their rights, CRVS systems must be built or reformed in line with human rights principles and international best practices. In this regard, the design and implementation of CRVS legal frameworks are of special importance. CRVSID legal frameworks must reflect the human rights obligations of governments to respect, fulfill and protect the human rights of all individuals including people who are LGBTI.