ID cards that reflect gender identity can play role in reducing vulnerability of transgender sex workers

Published: August 1, 2008

ID cards that reflect gender identity can play role in reducing vulnerability of transgender sex workers

Issues: Carrying a national identification card in Colombia is a legal requirement, although rarely enforced. Many transgender workers do not have national ID, or choose not to carry one, as they do not wish to be represented by an ID that does not reflect their gender identity. Moreover, the General System for Social Security for Health (SGSSS in Spanish) refuses to affiliate an individual without legal ID. Not carrying ID is used as an excuse by police to hassle and arrest transgender sex workers, and as a reason by health workers for not providing care.

Description: Fundación Santamaría, a community-based organisation of transgender people working for transgenders in Calí, has developed an alternate ID card for transgender sex workers which includes the transgender person’s chosen name and no mention of gender. The ID card is not legally recognised, however the Fundación has carried out sensitisation activities with police authorities so that they may recognise the document and not use lack of national ID as an excuse to arrest a transgender sex worker. To date, 324 transgender sex workers have registered for, and now carry, this alternate ID. The Fundación has also successfully negotiated with the departmental hospital to allow transgender sex workers who do not have a national ID but carry this alternate ID, to affiliate to the SGSSS and receive an HIV test at no-cost.

Lessons learned: Transgender sex workers are more willing to seek healthcare if addressed by their chosen name and gender in these centres. The alternate ID card has served as a powerful mobilisation tool for the transgender community in Cali.

Next steps: Support transgender sex workers through process of applying for national ID cards that display chosen name. Sensitise more health workers across Cali to recognise alternate ID cards while in the process of applying for legal ID.

-Abstract available at link below-

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