At least seven western European countries are violating the human rights of people trying to change their legal gender identities, according to Amnesty International.

In a new report the organisation details how transgender people are required to undergo invasive surgery, sterilisation, hormone therapy or psychiatric testing before they can change their legal status. 

Speaking in Dublin, Amnesty International Ireland Executive Director Colm O'Gorman described such practices as abhorrent, degrading and inhumane.

He also criticised the absence of any procedures in Ireland to enable people to change their legal gender. 

The report says that legal gender recognition is key for the enjoyment of human rights by transgender people.

Speaking ahead of the launch, Ben Power from Transgender Equality Network Ireland (TENI) said the absence of procedures is a major issue for transgender people in Ireland. 

He said that when there are discrepancies in their legal documents, they are involuntarily "outed" and left vulnerable to discrimination, harassment and violence. 

Mr Power described this as a denial of the basic right to respect for private and family lives, which urgently needs to be addressed.

Amnesty International's report, 'The state decides who I am: Lack of legal recognition for transgender people in Europe', focuses on seven European countries. 

It highlights how procedures to obtain legal gender recognition violate fundamental human rights in Denmark, Finland, France, Norway, Belgium and Germany.

It also underlines that in Ireland no procedure exists at all.

The mother of a transgender teenager has said the law should enable people over the age of 16 to change the legal definition of their gender. 

Catherine Cross was speaking after Amnesty International urged the Government to say when it will legislate for people to do so.

Estimates put the number of transgender people in the EU at anything between 30,000 and 1.5 million.

Last year saw the publication of a draft law to enable people in Ireland to change their legally defined gender.

Transgender people have already established their right not to be discriminated against in the workplace.

Recently, the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Education and Social Protection proposed a reduction in the age at which the Bill could permit such a change from 18 to 16.

Amnesty welcomed the development but says it wants to see the final version of the bill and the timetable for its introduction in the Oireachtas set.