Constitutional Court rules denial of trans woman’s name change request 'privacy violation'

The Turkish Constitutional Court has ruled that an Ankara court’s rejection of a trans woman’s request for a name change was a violation of her right to privacy.

Duvar English

The Constitutional Court ruled today that the rejection of a trans woman’s request for a name by change by an Ankara civil court was a violation of her right to privacy. The Ankara court ruled that due to the fact that the woman had not undergone gender reassignment, her assuming a female name could be “confusing to society”.

The Constitutional court ruled that this determination deprived the trans woman (referred to as D. in court documents) one of the fundamental aspects of personhood, a name.

Article 40 of the Turkish Civil Code regulates sex change in Turkey. Specifically, it regulates how and why individuals can undergo gender confirmation surgery: if they appeal in person in court (an amendment by the AKP administration) and if they have confirmation from a medical professional that they have “transsexual tendencies.” D.’s lawyer, Emrah Şahin, argued that this had nothing to do with a name change - the Turkish state, he said, has an obligation to allow citizens to change their name as long as it does not interfere with the public order. The right to a name change, he argued, is related to the right to life; it is part of a person’s private life.

The Constitutional Court, in its decision, agreed with Şahin’s argument and further argued that the Ankara court’s use of the Turkish Civil Code to prevent D. from changing their name was unconstitutional. While the applicant provided sufficient justification for her name change, the court determined, the Ankara court could not provide sufficient justification for its rejection.

One constitutional court judge, Engin Yıldırım, who made a statement in favor of D.’s argument, stated that in addition to the state’s obligation to protect an individual’s privacy, the state is also obliged to not engage with discrimination. He cited the United Nations charter, Council of Europe resolutions, and Yogyarta principles, which all hold the Turkish state to be non-discriminatory in its laws and application of authority.

As a result of the Ankara civil court decision, he said, D. was treated differently because of her gender identity and was “legally obliged to bear a name related to a gender he did not feel that he spiritually and emotionally belonged to.” The civil court decision, in other words, was discriminatory.

Two dissenting justices, Recai Aykel and Selahaddin Menteş, however, disagreed with the decision, citing transphobic reasoning. In their dissent, they stated that there should be “no demand for a name change,” that D. “wants to get a female name without gender reassignment surgery,” and that “there should be harmony between material reality and official records.”