La Paz: Bolivian transgenders, over 18-years of age, can now change their name, gender and photo in all public and private documents after the gender identity legislation was signed into law.

“This is democracy. For that reason, I feel happy to be able to sign this law, under which for the first time the government guarantees social recognition of people with rights, regardless of their sexual orientation,” Vice President Alvaro Garcia Linera on Saturday said at Bolivia’s Palace of Government in La Paz.

“They will not disappear if we ignore or discriminate against them. What has happened till now is that this group has become visible and has claimed its rights. Today the transsexual and transgender group is enriching Bolivia’s democracy,” Linera said.

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Bolivian Justice Minister Virginia Velasco said the law conforms to the state Constitution, which recognises the rights of every Bolivian and highlights diversity among its people.

“Our transgender and transsexual brothers and sisters have suffered, but now with this law we have taken a step forward and we will continue to do this, because we are equal in the eyes of the law,” Velasco said.

The signing ceremony was held after the houses of legislature passed the bill on Thursday and Friday.

Transgender people will still need to undergo a psychological examination prior to legally changing their identity, while transsexuals will require a medical certificate that verifies their sex change.

Laura Alvarez, national president of Bolivia’s lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender organisation, said earlier this week that the bill will benefit some 1,500 members whose legal documents do not reflect their sex change, mainly former men whose official IDs bear the masculine name they were given at birth.

The bill has met resistance from the Evangelical Churches of La Paz, whose president, pastor Oscar Munoz, feared the initiative will pave the way for same-sex marriage.

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