Chile has just made a historic move toward transgender equality: The Andean nation has approved a new law allowing trans people to change their name and legal gender markers.
The bill was introduced to congress nearly five years ago by former Chilean President Michelle Bachelet, reports Reuters. (Bachelet also introduced a marriage equality bill last August during her tenure as President.) It faced years of fierce opposition from anti-LGBTQ conservatives but was officially signed into law by current President Sebastián Piñera this Wednesday.
Chile is home to more than 17 million people, and the country’s annual Pride event in its capital city, Santiago, has attracted some 100,000 attendees in recent years. The majority of its population—more than 60%—is Catholic, meaning religious oppositions to homosexuality have impeded pushes for LGBTQ equality in the South American nation.
Experts say the law’s passage marks another step forward for the historically conservative country, which only legalized divorce—yes, divorce for straight couples—in 2004. Chile’s incredibly strict ban on abortions was only lifted last year, and women who want to get one are only permitted to do so under a set of particular circumstances.
“I am aware there are varying opinions on this issue,” said Piñera in an official statement regarding the new trans-inclusive law. “But I am firm in my conviction that we have taken a step in the right direction.”
The new law applies to anyone over the age of 14, although trans people ages 14–18 must obtain permission from their legal guardians to pursue a name or gender marker change.