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Living History: Intersex in focus in Phl

The Supreme Court allows for intersex Filipinos to determine their gender classification. The SC stated: “Respondent is the one who has to live with his intersex anatomy.To him belongs the human right to the pursuit of happiness and of health.” 

A win for intersex Filipinos.

On December 11, 2003, Jeff Cagandahan, an intersex person, filed a Petition for Correction of Entries in Birth Certificate before the RTC, Branch 33 of Siniloan, Laguna. Specifically, Cagandahan asked to change his name and his sex (from female to male). Cagandahan claimed that he developed male characteristics while growing up because of a condition called Congenital Adrenal Hyperplasia (CAH).

On January 12, 2005, the Regional Trial Court (RTC), Branch 33 of Siniloan, Laguna granted the Petition for Correction of Entries in Birth Certificate filed by Jennifer B. Cagandahan and ordered the following changes of entries in Cagandahan’s birth certificate: (1) the name Jennifer Cagandahan changed to Jeff Cagandahan and (2) gender from female to male.

But the Office of the Solicitor General (OSG)appealed the decision, also using the Silverio argument (i.e. that “Rule 108 does not allow change of sex or gender in the birth certificate and respondents claimed medical condition known as CAH does not make her a male”).

Living History: On changing one’s sex by petitioning the Phl courts

The SC sided with Cagandahan.

In its 2008 decision, the highest court stated:

“Ultimately, we are of the view that where the person is biologically or naturally intersex the determining factor in his gender classification would be what the individual, like respondent, having reached the age of majority, with good reason thinks of his/her sex. Respondent here thinks of himself as a male and considering that his body produces high levels of male hormones (androgen) there is preponderant biological support for considering him as being male. Sexual development in cases of intersex persons makes the gender classification at birth inconclusive. It is at maturity that the gender of such persons, like respondent, is fixed…

“In the absence of a law on the matter, the Court will not dictate on respondent concerning a matter so innately private as ones sexuality and lifestyle preferences, much less on whether or not to undergo medical treatment to reverse the male tendency due to CAH. The Court will not consider respondent as having erred in not choosing to undergo treatment in order to become or remain as a female. Neither will the Court force respondent to undergo treatment and to take medication in order to fit the mold of a female, as society commonly currently knows this gender of the human species. Respondent is the one who has to live with his intersex anatomy.To him belongs the human right to the pursuit of happiness and of health. Thus, to him should belong the primordial choice of what courses of action to take along the path of his sexual development and maturation. In the absence of evidence that respondent is an incompetent and in the absence of evidence to show that classifying respondent as a male will harm other members of society who are equally entitled to protection under the law, the Court affirms as valid and justified the respondents position and his personal judgment of being a male.”

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The decision was written by Associate Justice Leonardo A. Quisumbing; with Conchita Carpio Morales, Dante O. Tinga, Presbitero J. Velasco Jr. and Arturo D. Brion concurring.

Sources:

Republic of the Philippines versus Jennifer B. Cagandahan (G.R. No. 166676), Available from http://sc.judiciary.gov.ph/jurisprudence/2008/september2008/166676.htm#_ftnref12

UNDP, USAID (2014). “Being LGBT in Asia: The Philippines Country Report.” Bangkok.

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