11 Aug 2018

MPs recommend easier process to change sex on birth certificate

7:43 am on 11 August 2018

People wanting to change their birth certificate to reflect their gender identity may soon find it easier under changes recommended by MPs.

A report released yesterday by the Governance and Administration Committee has recommended that people be able to change the nominated sex on their birth certificate to 'intersex' or 'X' (unspecified) in line with how they self-identify.

The recommendations include removing the current requirement of providing medical evidence.

The select committee has also recommended birth certificate change applications go straight to the Registrar-Generals office rather than through the Family Court as the current Births, Deaths, Marriages and Relationships Registration Act 1995 prescribes.

The committee stated in its recommendation that the current law "was progressive in 1995 but is now outdated and inconsistent with global developments".

The recommendations have been welcomed by the non-binary, intersex and transgender communities.

Speaking on behalf of Gender Minorities Aotearoa, a collective of organisations supporting gender identity law reform, Sally Dellow said they are very pleased with the proposed changes.

"Most people in our communities can change their New Zealand passport or driver license, but it does not match their birth certificate - that can cause significant problems when a birth certificate needs to be shown as proof of identity".

"This small but significant change will make it fairer for those in our communities, who do not have the resources to use the existing Family Court process," Sally Dellow said.

Ms Dellow said Family Court process was often costly and required medical evidence from health professionals.

The Human Rights Commission has said the recommended changes bring New Zealand in line with international human rights law.

The Commission's Human Rights Gender Identity Advisor, Taine Polkinghorne, said the change will help reduce discrimination transgender, intersex and non-binary people face by enabling them to update their documents more simply.

"The current practice of restricting the change of nominated sex on a birth certificate to binary options, fails to accommodate the range of gender identities that individuals may have," Mr Polkinghorne said.

"A person's gender identity is one of the most intimate areas of a person's private life. The right to self-identification and recognition before the law is not a special right. It is a human right," he said.

However, some argue self-identification could undermine women's rights.

Georgina Blackmore, who made a submission against the proposed changes, said there were "practical implications".

"It would be a violation of human rights to put males and females together in the same prison for instance," she said.

"When you enact things like self-identification based on a declaration of somebody wanting to change gender, you leave these women open and vulnerable to males exploiting that.  So it does have very real implications for very vulnerable women."

Much discrimination against women was due to their biological status, she said.

"It doesn't undermine transwomen to say they are a distinct group - with different issues in society, different goals and ambitions."