9 September 2003 – A group of organisations and interested individuals, including Sally Gross, Simone Heradien, Estian Smit, members of the Cape Town Transsexual/Transgender Support Group, the South African Human Rights Commission, and the Commission on Gender Equality, made oral presentations during the parliamentary hearings to advocate for amendments to the Sex Description and Sex Status Act, Act 49 of 2003.

As gazetted at this point, The Sex Description and Sex Status Act made no provision for trans people without genital surgery or for intersexed and other persons who did not wish to have any medical/surgical procedures, but who may want to change the gender identity/sex description assigned to them at birth.

The Cape Town Transsexual/Transgender Support Group only heard about the hearings at short notice, about 10 days before the hearings. Due to this short amount of time, they requested an extension of two months, to better prepare. The request was denied. The Group then went ahead and prepared and delivered their oral presentation on 9 September 2003.

A quick overview of Act 49 of 2003:

“The Act applies to:

  •       Persons having gender reassignment.
  •       Intersexed persons.


  •       For gender reassignment, reports by two medical practitioners.
  •       For intersexed persons, reports by a medical practitioner and a psychologist/social worker.

Who may apply?

Any person whose sexual characteristics have been altered by:

i)                   surgical treatment

ii)                  or medical treatment

iii)                 or by evolvement through natural development resulting from gender reassignment, or any person who is intersexed may apply to the Director-General of the National Department of Home Affairs for the alteration of the sex description on his or her birth register.”

Note: “Evolvement through natural development” is not defined in the Act, so it could be interpreted as changes in biological development, or as changes in psychological/social development.

Critical comment: The Act assumes and therefore demands that applicants must undergo some kind of change before they qualify for an alteration of sex description.