The United Arab Emirates’ medical laws have recently undergone a raft of landmark changes – and as a result, gender reassignment surgery is no longer illegal in this country.
The medical need for a person to undergo a sex correction was acknowledged by a task force set up by the Health Authority in Abu Dhabi.
And in a bid to modernise the UAE’s healthcare system, the task force have this month introduced several pioneering changes that diminish doctors’ criminal liability.
Federal Decree No. 4 acknowledges the condition of gender dysphoria, and now allows doctors to perform sex-correction surgeries in cases where a person’s gender is unclear, or their appearance does not match their physiological, psychological and genetic characteristics.
“The surgical procedure by which a transgender person’s physical appearance and function of their existing sexual characteristics are altered to resemble that of their identified gender is permitted, if it is part of a treatment for gender dysphoria in transgender people, as advised by a medical commission to be set up for this purpose,” the new Medical Liability Law states.
As is the case in many other countries, patients who hope to undergo gender reassignment will firstly be referred to psychologists to mentally prepare for the procedure.
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This means the UAE is now one of the few Middle Eastern countries to allow sex-correction surgeries – doctors in Iran have been performing the procedure since the 1980s, while Egypt has been allowing gender reassignment since 2013.
Sex change surgery, by which a person with a clear gender identity and matching physical features seeks to change sex, is still banned.
According to the law changes, doctors are also no longer required to resuscitate patients in certain terminal instances, and are not able to be prosecuted for deaths and incidents in which they are not medically culpable.
Emirati woman hopes to undergo the UAE’s first sex correction
A 29-year-old this week filed a lawsuit in her bid to be allowed gender reassignment surgery, saying she has suffered anxiety and depression as a result of not being able to live in her true gender.
The Abu Dhabi woman has been receiving psychological care since 2012, and a medical committee has recommended she get the surgery.
“Ever since she was three, the woman felt instead that she is actually a male. She would have an intense desire to have a male body and to be accepted by others as a male and would feel her true identity is male,” the woman’s lawyer, Ali Mohammed Al Mansouri, told Gulf News.
He also told 7Days that six medical examinations have shown his client’s testosterone levels are similar to that of a man.
The woman’s case will be heard on September 28, and the outcome will help set legal precedent for the issue in the country.