Wednesday, 18 March 2009

Australian Human Rights Commission Report

Here are the human rights commission's recommendations to the government - The Sex Files, dealing with the problems of documentation that Intersexed, Transsexual, and Transgendered people face:
Recommendation 1:

Marital status should not be a relevant consideration as to whether or not a person can request a change in legal sex.

Recommendation 2:

The definition of sex affirmation treatment should be broadened so that surgery is not the only criteria for a change in legal sex.

Recommendation 3:

The evidentiary requirements for the legal recognition of sex should be relaxed by reducing the quantity of medical evidence required and making greater allowance for people to self-identify their sex.

Recommendation 4:

The special needs of children and young people who wish to amend their documents and records should be considered.

Recommendation 5:

A person over the age of 18 years should be able to choose to have an unspecified sex noted on documents and records.

Recommendation 6:

Information on the process and criteria for the legal recognition of sex should be easily accessible and user-friendly.

Recommendation 7:

Documents of identity and processes required for the legal recognition of sex should not reveal personal information about a person's past identity in relation to sex.

Recommendation 8:

Laws and processes for the legal recognition of sex should use empowering terminology.

Recommendation 9:

Where possible, sex or gender should be removed from government forms and documents.

Recommendation 10:

The federal government should consider the development of national guidelines concerning the collection of sex and gender information from individuals.

Recommendation 11:

The federal government should take a leadership role in ensuring that there is a nationally consistent approach to the legal recognition of sex in accordance with the recommendations of this paper, by either
  • working cooperatively with state and territory governments through the Council of Australian Governments (COAG) process to amend their respective legislation and policies in line with the recommendations in this paper, particularly in relation to birth certificates, or
  • establishing a national board with responsibility for receiving and determining applications for official recognition of a change in sex, based on the recommendations in this paper (see section 11.2), as well as securing agreement from states and territories to recognise certificates of recognition issued by such a board.

Recommendation 12:

The federal government should consider establishing a national office to advise and assist the public and federal government in relation to changing legal recognition of sex, as an alternative or precursor to the national board put forward in Recommendation 11.

Recommendation 13:

In the event that Recommendation 11 fails to result in sufficient
support from state and territory governments, the federal government should consider legislation to:
  • amend the Sex Discrimination Act 1984 (Cth) to ensure that the protection against marital status discrimination applies in the context of married persons seeking to amend their birth certificates, to effectively override the existing discrimination under state and territory births registration legislation
  • establish a minimum national standard in respect of legal recognition of sex in documents and government records in line with the recommendations in this paper.

Recommendation 14:

The federal government should harmonise policies, procedures and legislation relevant to the legal recognition of sex in federal documents and records.

Recommendation 15:

The federal government should take immediate steps to ensure that all federal government departments and agencies provide clear and accessible information relevant to legal recognition of sex in documents and records and how those documents and records can be amended, such as by including a page on the department or agency's website dedicated to this topic.

The Constitutional situation in Australia is very similar to that of the USA, with similar restrictions on Federal powers. The major difference is that Marriage is covered by Federal legislation in Australia (unlike the USA), but as in the USA, birth registration is a state matter.

The USA could do worse than to study these recommendations.

I was there at the official launch of this report, in one of the Committee rooms at Parliament House. There were representatives of OII (Organisation Intersex International), A Gender Agenda, the SeaHorse Club (CrossDressers), and the various Transsexual advocacy groups here. I suppose you could say I was the observer for Sex and Gender Education Australia.

Present was Senator Pratt (Western Australia) who has a personal interest in the issue. Her partner is a transman.

The press was conspicuous by its absence. This has led to some garbling of the report, for example by the AAP:
Transgender people should also be able to undergo sex-change surgery regardless of their marital status.
That restriction was removed over 10 years ago. And it's been over 15 since having ever been married meant that no surgery could be contemplated.

On the other hand, permission from an existing spouse is asked for, and it's most helpful if it's given. My partner was interviewed in private both by my endocrinologist, and the psych who wrote the letter de cachet authorising hormone treatment and surgery.


Battybattybats said...

Glad you could be there Zoe!

the short notice of my invite wasn't nearly enough to enable me to make it.

Almost entirely I'm very pleased with this report though I still question the security stuff which I go into again on my blog but it looks like no-one is left out and the news that they are looking into Intersex surgeries is good news indeed.

The media coverage I've seen thus far is utterly woeful. If my Grandmother was alive she'd be fuming over the drop in quality of Australian journalism since she ran her newspaper.

Now the next step. Getting the reccomendations acted upon :)

Julie Curtis said...


that was a pleasant list to read...


what chance of having these 'recommendations' set in legal concrete ?


Zoe Brain said...

They're a necessary first step. The similar report on GLBs led to action within a couple of years, it was a catalyst.

I'm not holding my breath as regards swift action, but action there will eventually be.

I'd say in summary: Not Good, but better than they've ever been.

Laserlight said...

"The USA could"--and will!--"do worse than to study these recommendations."

I'm quite fond of my country, but I'm not under the delusion that the government is operated primarily for the benefit of all the citizens.

Radicalyffe said...

Hi Zoe,

A few things:
- Our organisation is called A Gender Agenda. Common error... we have a terrible name, and are considering changing it for this reason! :)
- The Senator present was Louise Pratt
- The Seahorse Society prefer the term 'cross dresser' to 'transvestite' as the latter is tainted with the stigma of mental illness. They are also supportive of the MTF transsexual and transgendered communities through out Australia.

It was good to see you again. I look forward to catching up with you on an occassion when I have a bit more time, and I'm not as nutty as a squirrel on crack with excitement. :)

Zoe Brain said...

Corrections made - thanks for drawing my attention to them. I wish I had someone to proof-read *before* I post rather than afterwards. That way, I wouldn't look like such a Scot.

Sorry, I meant Prat.


Anonymous said...

Um...what does the Pope have to say about all this?

Radicalyffe said...


No Worries Zoe. Its difficult when there's no written source to verify via.