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Vital Stories

Ecuador Scores a Legislative Victory for LGBTQ+ Rights

Vital Strategies

Ecuador has scored a long-awaited victory for LGBTQ+ rights with amendments to the national Identity Management and Civil Registration Act. The amendments, enacted in March 2024, allow adults to change the sex on their official documents to match their gender identity with fewer discriminatory barriers.

Vital Strategies’ partners in Ecuador, SiluetaX and PAKTA Foundation, laid the groundwork for the legislative victory following years of tireless advocacy and public engagement. Through activities that sensitized the community—including public officials—about the importance of these issues, they contributed to a shift in public opinion that led to this milestone.

Vital has worked with these partners to help mobilize the LGBTQ+ community, educate them about their rights, fund litigation to help people going through the registration process, and highlight where Ecuador legislation on LGBTQ+ rights falls short of international law and global standards.

Ecuador IDs display a person’s “sex” as either male or female. Before this amendment took effect, if a person completed the burdensome legal process of changing their gender marker, they would receive a new ID that displayed their “gender,” which essentially outed the holder as transgender. The amendments remove this dangerous and discriminatory provision by allowing each person to choose whether they want “gender” or “sex” to be displayed on their ID.

This legislation also allows adults to change their name and sex (or gender) one time directly through the register based purely on self-identification. Previously, transgender citizens who sought such changes required two witnesses to attest that the person had been living as the opposite sex for two years. Now, the witness and time requirements have been removed entirely. The law clarifies that no medical, surgical, psychological, or hormonal treatment or evidence is required to request the change, and explicitly states that the government may not publicize any such request.

The amendment also removes language that prohibited same sex couples from registering their foreign marriages in Ecuador. This modification is in alignment with the passing of Ecuador’s marriage law in 2019, which affirmed the right of same sex couples to marry.

There are nuances to the law that reflect some of the negotiations that went on behind the scenes. For example, the one-time specification responds to potential complaints that the trans community might shift their gender registration back and forth—to use a bathroom or secure other benefits.

While this amendment is a victory, there is still more work to do. Addressing the lack of a third gender option for non-binary people, for example, is a top priority. Under the revised law, adults who change their gender or sex must select between male and female.

“While it is disappointing that the legislature has not adopted all the reforms to guarantee the necessary protection and implementation of LGBTIQ+ rights, this is an important step,” said Bernarda Freire, from PAKTA Foundation. “PAKTA will not stop working until Ecuador achieves full equality.”

Further legislative change will likely be required to add this additional layer of inclusivity. 

“This achievement represents a fundamental step on the path towards the full recognition of our rights and the construction of a more just and inclusive society,” said Diane Rodríguez, trans activist and president of SiluetaX. “Changing the sex on the ID is not just an administrative procedure; it is an act of recognition of our existence, our identity and our right to live according to who we are. It is the guarantee of being able to access basic services, job opportunities and public spaces without having to face discrimination or humiliation.

Today, we celebrate this achievement with deep joy and gratitude.”