TENI Warmly Welcomes Committee Report on Gender Recognition

The Joint Committee on Education and Social Protection published its report yesterday on the General Scheme of the Gender Recognition Bill 2013.

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The report recommends that the upcoming legislation should reduce the age an individual can apply for a Gender Recognition Certificate from 18 years to 16 years.

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“TENI warmly welcomes this report as it represents significant progress,” said TENI Chief Executive Broden Giambrone. “We’re delighted to see that the Committee has made clear recommendations for improving the Government’s Bill. In particular, we are happy to see there is concerted effort to improve the conditions of young trans people in this country. We sincerely hope that Minister Burton takes these recommendations on board.”

The Committee’s report is the result of a consultation process and public hearings that were held with trans rights groups, human rights organisations and legal and medical experts in October 2013. The report addresses key issues in the Government’s General Scheme and makes recommendations for improvements in several areas.

Lowering the Age of Recognition

In the Government’s General Scheme of the Bill published in July, it was stipulated that only individuals over 18 years of age would be able to obtain a Gender Recognition Certificate. This requirement excluded young trans and intersex people who are particularly vulnerable to bullying and discrimination. During the Committee hearings in October this issue was raised by TENI, BeLonG To Youth Services, LGBT Noise, TransParenCI and other experts who made submissions calling on the Government to remove the age requirement to ensure that the rights of young trans people would be protected by new legislation. This was also echoed by the Ombudsman for Children’s Office who published advice late last year calling on the Government to remove the criterion of a minimum age stating, “an absolute exclusion on young people or their parents seeking a Gender Recognition Certificate is a disproportionate interference with young people’s right to gender recognition.”

The Committee’s report acknowledged the challenges that many young trans and intersex people face and makes a clear recommendation to lower the age requirement to 16, “the age at which a person is entitled to apply for a Gender Recognition Certificate should be reduced from 18 years to 16 years. Measures should also be put-in-place to address the day-to-day concerns of transgender people under the age of 16 years.”

“Reducing the age requirement to 16 is a positive step forward. This will improve the lives of many young trans and intersex people who will be able to be legally recognised prior to leaving school and change necessary identification documents,” said Giambrone. “However, it still leaves those under 16 in a vulnerable position. Without legal protection these young people will be open to discrimination. We strongly encourage the Minister to keep the age criterion under review.”

The Committee’s report also acknowledged that many young trans people face difficulties in school and recommends the introduction of guidelines that support the inclusion of transgender young people in schools.

“TransParenCI welcomes the proposed legislation to allow 16 year olds to apply for a gender recognition certificate,” said Catherine Cross, member of TransParenCI and a parent of a trans child. “Whilst we are disappointed that children under 16 won’t be allowed to do so, we are hopeful that the proposed guidelines will offer support for our transgender children at school and provide clear pathways for teaching staff.”

Divorce Requirement

The Committee’s report also makes positive recommendations on other key areas of the legislation. The requirement to be single, which would effectively force married trans people to get divorced in order to be legally recognised, is also addressed. Citing conflicting legal opinion, the report states, “the Committee believes that the fact that a person is in an existing marriage or a civil partnership should not prevent him or her from qualifying for a Gender Recognition Certificate, and urges the Minister to revisit this issue.”

“We would strongly urge the Minister to consider the Committee’s recommendations,” said TENI Chair Sara R. Phillips. “It is unclear when or even if the same sex marriage referendum will be passed. If the proposed legislation remains unchanged, trans people who are married will remain in limbo. They would be forced to choose between their families and their right to be legally recognised.”

Next Steps

The Committee’s Report is being sent to Minister Burton to assist the Department of Social Protection in finalising draft legislation. The Minister has committed to introducing legislation in 2014. However, in the Government’s recently published Legislative Programme the Gender Recognition Bill is listed in Section B with no publication date stipulated.

“This is an important step in the right direction. TENI will continue to advocate for the introduction of inclusive, rights-based legislation that will ensure all members of the trans community can avail of their human rights. We urge the Minister to prioritise this legislation and ensure that it is published in 2014,” said Giambrone.

“We would like to thank Chair Joanna Tuffy and the Committee for their engagement with the trans community and considered recommendations. While there is still more work to do, we are optimistic that this process will positively inform the legislation that is introduced. We urge the Minister to take these recommendations on board and work closely with the trans community to ensure that the best legislation is introduced,” concluded Phillips.

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