23 February 2021, 23:00:00
Times of Malta
One person who faced a constant uphill struggle and went against all odds was Joanne Cassar.
After saving up, at the age of 22, she got the surgery done. Before going under the knife she was subjected to various hormone treatments and medical and psychiatric tests to ensure she was medically and psychologically prepared for this invasive surgery.
The surgery was successful and, following an excruciating recovery period of about six months, Ms Cassar filed a court application to have her gender changed to female on her birth certificate. Some nine months later the court upheld the request allowing her documents to truly reflect who she felt she was.
Ms Cassar’s battle for marriage started soon after she and her former partner applied for the banns for a wedding planned for December 2007.
The Marriage Registrar refused to issue them even though Ms Cassar had legally changed her gender to female on her birth certificate after surgery.
In February 2007, Ms Cassar won a civil case in which the court ordered the registrar to issue the wedding banns, but the decision was overturned on appeal in May 2008.
In May 2011, the Constitutional Court held that although Ms Cassar’s rights had been breached this was due to shortcomings in the law to cater for some form of partnership for people in her situation. It did not result that the banns should have been issued.
In mid-2011, she took her case to the European Court of Human Rights claiming the government was breaching her rights by refusing to issue marriage banns after her gender was changed to female on her birth certificate. The ECHR asked the then Nationalist Government if it wanted to reach an agreement. The government stuck to its argument – that marriage could only take place between a biological male and female and Ms Cassar’s gender was only changed on paper to protect her private life.
A month after the Labour Party won the March 2013 general election, the government announced it was willing to reach a settlement. Ms Cassar withdrew the case and was given €10,000 in moral damages after the government amended the law to allow people who underwent gender reassignment surgery to marry.
Joanne was awarded with the Ġieħ ir-Repubblika in 2013 for her determination and perseverance. Her courage led to amendments being made to the Civil Code, making our country a fairer place. Her legal battle lasted seven years and she finally got married on March 31st of 2015 (Freedom Day).
Bartolo, S. (2018). A Seat at the Table. Published by MGRM and printed by Progress Press, Malta. &