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Debate on Gender Recognition Concludes in Seanad Éireann

18th February 2015, 11:15:50 UTC

Yesterday (Tuesday 17th February), the Report and Final Stage debates on the Gender Recognition Bill 2014 concluded in Seanad Eireann.

During the debates on the Gender Recognition Bill 2014, Senators from across the House were almost unanimously unified in their criticism of three main elements of the Bill:

  • the need for applicants to be single (‘forced divorce’);
  • the absence of protection for, and acknowledgement of, young trans and intersex people;
  • and the requirement that a primary treating medical practitioner affirm an applicant’s identity.

During the debates, a substantial number of amendments were offered by cross-party Senators to address the obvious deficiencies in the Bill. Yet, despite very strong arguments in favour of human rights based changes, founded on best-practice models, the Minister stated he was not in a position to accept the proposed changes.

The only notable exceptions to this were in relation to 1) the introduction of a review mechanism so that the legislation would be reviewed in two years, and 2) the removal of the phrase ‘medical evaluation’ from the medical criteria.

Speaking at the conclusion of the debate, Broden Giambrone, Chief Executive of Transgender Equality Network Ireland (TENI), said:
“This legislation passing through the Seanad is significant and we welcome the introduction of amendments by Government. For instance, the deletion of the phrase ‘medical evaluation’ is practically and symbolically meaningful. However, it by no means represents depathologisation of the legislation. Furthermore, the restrictive definition of medical practitioners still remains. This is still a major shortfall of the legislation and prevents it from being heralded as truly progressive legislation.”

The Government passed an amendment that requires a review of the operation of the Act within two years.

“This is an important safety mechanism to ensure that this legislation is not forgotten, and to allow for the problems to be resolved. However, we know what good practice is now, and we should not be kicking this down the line for another Government to have to deal with. We should legislate properly now. We can legislate properly now. We know now what changes need to be made if the Bill is to protect the very people it is designed to protect.”

Responding to the Debate
Amnesty International Ireland and Transgender Equality Network Ireland (TENI) applauded the efforts made by Senators from across Seanad Eireann over the past number of weeks to propose amendments to address the deficiencies of the current Bill.

While it is welcome that the Bill will now contain a review mechanism, and the words ‘medical evaluation’ will be removed, it remains unfortunate that the voices of trans people have not been listened to, and that human rights based approaches have not been adopted.

Colm O’Gorman, Executive Director of Amnesty International Ireland said:“It is unacceptable that people who want to change the gender they were assigned at birth are not being listened to and will continue to face onerous hurdles. We hope that when the Bill is examined in the Dáil that the Government will take the opportunity to amend it, in line with human rights standards.”

Broden Giambrone, Chief Executive of Transgender Equality Network Ireland (TENI), said: “This legislation effects our lives, so we must get it right. Trans people must be listened to. Our voices must be heard. There are serious problems with this Bill, and they simply must be addressed if this legislation is to serve the needs of the very people it is supposed to protect. We are hopeful that, as the Bill passes through the Dáil, amendments will be accepted to address these deficiencies, so that we can truly say that Ireland has introduced progressive legislation.”

The Bill will now proceed to Dáil Eireann.

Jointly released by Transgender Equality Network Ireland (TENI) And Amnesty International Ireland.