New Bill Would Expand Definitions of Mother and Father

Reykjavík baby

A new bill introduced by the Minister of Justice would redefine the legal definitions of ‘mother’ and ‘father’ and allow nonbinary individuals to register themselves simply as ‘parents’ if they prefer not to designate themselves a gendered parental role, RÚV reports.

The bill notes that unlike some countries around the world that compel trans people to be sterilized in order to achieve legal recognition of their gender, Iceland has no such requirement. As such, a trans man in Iceland may become pregnant and give birth to a child and a trans woman may beget a child. Per the proposed changes to the bill, parents who have legally changed their gender in the national registry will be recognized as ‘mother’ or ‘father’ in accordance with their legal gender. This would allow a child to have, for instance, two legal fathers or two legal mothers.

See Also: Iceland’s Gender Autonomy Act is a Step Forward for Trans and Intersex Rights 

Last June, Iceland passed the Gender Autonomy Act, which allows, among other things, for individuals to change their official gender according to their lived experience and register as neither male nor female (denoted with an “x” on documents). The new bill would therefore make it possible for a person to simply designate themselves as a child’s ‘parent’ in the national registry, rather than having to choose between being listed as the child’s mother or father.

Should the bill be passed, further changes would need to be made in accordance with the new definitions of the concept of ‘mother.’ Special rights currently afforded to mothers related to pregnancy and childbirth would also need to extend to those identifying as fathers or parents.

The bill would also update the current ‘pater est’ laws, which states that the man who a mother is either married to or cohabitating with is automatically considered a child’s father. Under the new provisions, this would be redefined as the ‘parens est’ principal: a child born to two cohabitating or married individuals would automatically be considered their child, and they the child’s parents. This would not apply, however, in the case of artificial insemination.

In the event that the parens est rule does not apply, the parental status of the cohabitating partner or spouse of a person who gave birth to a child would be determined according to paternal recognition provisions, which would be similar to the current provisions on paternity recognition. (See the current laws on maternity and paternity in Iceland, including paternity recognition, in English here.)

Set to Rights

Trans Ísland

The year is 1996. After spending several years in Sweden, Anna Kristjánsdóttir moves back to Iceland. She struggles to find a job, and when she finally does, harsh bullying leads her to quit. Anna is a public figure, though not everyone looks at her in a positive light. But it’s not living abroad that has made her an outsider: Anna is trans.

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Name Changes In a Week or Less Once Law Goes Into Effect

Iceland trans intersex rights bill

Once the new Gender Autonomy Act goes into effect, individuals will have only a three to five day wait for their requested name changes to be processed, RÚV reports. Although the law has yet to be published, preparations are already underway at Registers Iceland in the hope that the name change process will be as smooth and fast as possible for all applicants.

Alþingi passed the Gender Autonomy Act last week. Per this new law, Icelandic names will no longer be gendered. This means that anyone will be able to take any name in the registry, irrespective of gender, and marks a major change in Icelandic naming conventions. Per the previous provisions of the country’s naming laws, “Girls shall be given female names and boys shall be given male names.” Moreover, individuals will have the right to change their official gender according to their lived experience and register as neither male nor female (denoted with an “x” on documents).

Registers Iceland is preparing itself so as to be ready to process name changes as soon as the law goes into effect says Margrét Hauksdóttir, the organisation’s general director. “…[W]e’ll be ready with electronic forms where people can apply for changes, both to their surnames and given names.”

Per the new law, individuals who register their gender as ‘X’ will be able to take gender neutral surnames in lieu of patro- and matronymics that designate the bearer as being someone’s son or daughter. The status quo is for children to be given a name that specifies them as being either male or female using the suffixes -son or -dóttir. But now, there is a gender-neutral option in the name ending -bur, which doesn’t carry any gendered connotation. (People registered as female will still be required to take the patro- or matronymic -dóttir and people registered as male will still have to use -son.)

Margrét says that Registers Iceland is anticipating a high number of name change applications to be submitted once the law takes effect, as there are a number of people who have been specifically waiting for the law to allow them to do so. Processing time for name changes should be within three to five business days, she says.

“Not much more than that,” she remarked. “If it is, in fact, a name that exists in the name registry and if it doesn’t require any special consideration, it will go through quickly.”