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Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 15 December 2018

Dutch court rejects man’s request to be 20 years younger

Motivational speaker Emile Ratelband, 69, asked to shave decades off his age in a case that drew worldwide attention

Emile Ratelband speaks with the media in Amsterdam before a court ruling in his case. EPA
Emile Ratelband speaks with the media in Amsterdam before a court ruling in his case. EPA

Dutch motivational speaker Emile Ratelband may feel like a 49-year-old, but according to Dutch law he is still 69.

A Dutch court on Monday rejected Mr Ratelband’s request to shave 20 years off his age in a case that drew worldwide attention.

“Mr Ratelband is at liberty to feel 20 years younger than his real age and to act accordingly,” Arnhem court said in a press statement. “But amending his date of birth would cause 20 years of records to vanish from the register of births, deaths, marriages and registered partnerships. This would have a variety of undesirable legal and societal implications.”

Mr Ratelband went to court last month, arguing that he didn’t feel 69 and saying his request was consistent with other forms of personal transformation that are gaining acceptance in the Netherlands and around the world, such as the ability to change one’s name or gender.

The court rejected that argument, saying that unlike in the case of a name or gender, Dutch law assigns rights and obligations based on age “such as the right to vote and the duty to attend school. If Mr Ratelband’s request was allowed, those age requirements would become meaningless.”

Mr Ratelband, perhaps unsurprisingly given his background as self-described advocate of positive thinking, was undeterred by the court’s rejection and vowed to appeal.

“This is great,” he said. “The rejection of [the] court is great... because they give all kinds of angles where we can connect when we go in appeal.”

He said he was the first of “thousands of people who want to change their age”.

The court said it acknowledged “a trend in society for people to feel fit and healthy for longer, but did not regard that as a valid argument for amending a person’s date of birth”.

Mr Ratelband also insisted his case did have parallels with requests for name and gender changes.

“I say it’s comparable because it has to do with my feeling, with respect about who I think... I am, my identity,” he said.

The court said Mr Ratelband failed to convince the judges that he suffers from age discrimination. It added that “there are other alternatives available for challenging age discrimination, rather than amending a person’s date of birth”.