ACT's gender identity bill considered to be too soft on human rights

Posted in News

By Lisa Cox

National political reporter for the Sydney Morning Herald

The ACT government could amend its landmark proposal to recognise transgender and intersex people in identity documents because of concerns the bill does not go far enough to advance human rights.

A Legislative Assembly committee has warned that there is a ''significant rights issue'' in the bill, which removes the requirement for surgery for people who want to change their gender on their birth certificate.

The proposal, introduced late last year, substitutes the requirement for surgery with a new requirement for proof of appropriate clinical treatment from a professional, such as a psychiatrist or psychologist.

The government is considering a report from the assembly's standing committee on justice and community safety that questions whether any form of clinical evidence should be necessary.


''The committee raises no issue concerning the removal of the requirement that an applicant has undergone sexual reassignment surgery, but there is a significant rights issue arising from what is proposed as a substitute,'' the report says.

The report notes that ''there was majority support within the sex and gender-diverse communities in the ACT for self-identification alone to be a sufficient condition''.

The committee also raised concerns that the bill might not offer sufficient protection to children whose parents were acting on their behalf. The report asks whether changes to identity records should only be permitted for children above a certain age and with the child's consent.

The committee also called on the government to consider whether there should be a legal process available for children who want to change their gender on their birth certificate but who do not have the support of either one or both of their parents.

Advocacy groups are in talks with the government about a range of issues in the bill, which the assembly was originally expected to debate in the first sitting for 2014 this week.

Peter Hyndal, spokesman for A Gender Agenda, said the group agreed clinical proof should not be required for people who wanted to change their gender on their birth certificate.

''Our view is, and always has been, that it should be a self-declaration and any additional evidence shouldn't be necessary,'' he said. ''The only person who can know what the appropriate identity is is the person themselves.''

Mr Hyndal said the group was worried there was ''no capacity and process'' for children who ''are clearly identifying as the opposite gender'' but whose parents opposed changing their birth certificate.

Mr Hyndal said the laws also posed a problem for people who lived in the ACT but were born in another state.

Attorney-General Simon Corbell called on other jurisdictions to follow the ACT's lead and pursue similar laws when he introduced the bill in December.

Mr Corbell has referred to the bill as the ''final piece'' of the ACT government's reforms for gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender and intersex people in Canberra.

A spokesman for Mr Corbell said the government was considering the committee's report.


Transgender Victoria (TGV) was founded in the late 1990s to achieve justice, equity and quality health and community service provision for trans and gender diverse (TGD) people, their partners, families and friends.

TGV uses TGD to refer to people whose gender identity or expression is different from that which was assigned at birth or that which is expected of them by society.

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Transgender Victoria (TGV) work with and for, the trans and gender diverse (TGD) community as well as its allies, to create positive change in areas that impact the human rights of TGD people. 

TGV represents the TGD community in challenging discrimination and assists to empower TGD people so that they may lead full and meaningful lives.

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