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Thursday, July 30, 1998 Published at 10:07 GMT 11:07 UK


Transsexuals lose court battle

Rachel Horsham (right) says she has been forced into exile

Two transsexuals who accused the UK government of breaching their human rights have narrowly lost a legal challenge at the European Court of Human Rights.

Although Kristina Sheffield and Rachel Horsham live as women after having sex change operations, the law treats them as men.

They argued that the government's refusal to allow them to alter their birth certificates infringed their right to respect for private life, guaranteed by the Human Rights Convention.

But the European Court rejected their case, stating that a birth certificate cannot be amended because it is a record of events at birth and is therefore not affected by subsequent events.

[ image: Kristina Sheffield: Not seen her daughter for 12 years]
Kristina Sheffield: Not seen her daughter for 12 years
Earlier this year, judges in Strasbourg heard that Londoner Miss Sheffield, 52, had been provided with a passport and driving licence in her new name since changing sex in 1986, but continued to be regarded as a man in the eyes of the law.

Her ex-wife's application to a court to terminate Kristina's access to her own daughter was approved - because contact with a transsexual would not be in the child's interests.

The judges were told that as a result Miss Sheffield has not seen her daughter for more than 12 years.

Ms Horsham, also 52, has been living in Amsterdam since 1974. She claims she was forced to live in exile because only by moving out of the UK to a more liberal regime could she marry her male partner.

She applied for naturalisation for Dutch citizenship in 1992 while still retaining her British citizenship. It was granted in 1993.

A request to amend her birth certificate had earlier been turned down by the UK Office of Population Censuses and Surveys.

Ms Horsham said that Dutch law recognises transsexuality. After sex change treatment, the birth certificate is amended and the individual has the rights of a person of the new sex.

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