New Zealand Law Society - Dutchman’s legal bid to be 20 years younger dismissed

Dutchman’s legal bid to be 20 years younger dismissed

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A Dutch court has ruled that a man cannot roll back his birth year by two decades.

Emile Ratelband wanted his birth year to be changed from 1949 to 1969, on the grounds that if someone’s name and gender can be changed, this should also apply to age.

The Court of Gederland, in Arnhem, Netherlands, however, rejected Mr Ratelband’s application, stating that, among other things, the date of birth is not only a written date of birth, it is a reflection of the actual event of birth.

The petitioner asked the court to classify the date of birth on his birth certificate as a mistake pursuant to article 1:24 of the province’s Civil Code. His lawyer requested that the court consider the statutory regulations that exist for name and gender change.

Mr Ratelband argued that identity and calendar age are no longer inter-connected as people feel younger than they are.

He also argued that he has experienced age discrimination, and a change of date of birth could remedy that.

Mr Ratelband said he is socially suffering from the difference between his actual age and his emotional age.

Court reasoning 

On the age discrimination argument, the court said that the applicant failed to provide any concrete examples of how he was confronted with age discrimination. Besides, there are other ways to take action against age discrimination rather than changing the date of birth.

On the right to self-determination argument, the court held that this did not extend so far that every desired outcome is legally possible.

The court noted that the granting of the request would imply that the 20 years in which the applicant did live would disappear in the registers which would cause all kinds of legal problems, for example what should happen with diplomas obtained in that period, or the driving licence or any marriage that was concluded in that time or a child that was born?

The court accepted that age is part of someone’s identity, but age is more than just identity. There was no reason in the petitioner’s argument to create new case law in line with the statutory provisions on changes to a person’s officially registered name or gender. Rights and obligations are attached to age, for example the right to a benefit, the right to vote, the right to marry and the possibility to drink alcohol and the right to drive a car. If the request was allowed those age requirements would become meaningless.