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Tuesday 14 August 2018

Restrictions on children changing genders should be lifted – new report urges

Hundreds of people gathered outside Leinster House last week to call on the government to provide improved healthcare for the transgender community. Photo: Noah Halpin
Hundreds of people gathered outside Leinster House last week to call on the government to provide improved healthcare for the transgender community. Photo: Noah Halpin

Payu Tiwari

Restrictions on children changing genders should be lifted, a report on the Gender Recognition Act has recommended.

The report also says that a system of gender recognition be introduced for people who are non-binary. 

According to the current act, children under the age of 16 can’t access gender recognition, whereas teenagers aged 16-17 have to undergo several psychiatric and medical processes before they change their gender. 

The report was prepared in accordance with a provision in the Act, which states that the legislation and its operation should be reviewed in two years. It was commissioned by Minister for Social Protection, Regina Doherty, and prepared by a review group, which consisted of department officials and trans activists, such as Sarah Philips. 

According to the report, there is no legal basis for the current division between under 16's – who are not allowed to change their gender - and over 16's who are.  It recommends that if the children have parental permission, they should be allowed to switch their gender with a simple mechanism.  

Speaking about the report’s recommendations on Morning Ireland, Stephen O'Hare, CEO with Transgender Equality Network Ireland, states: “It is groundbreaking. A system that allows children of any age to have their gender recognised in itself will help alleviate the stress felt by children who are trans.”

“The issues for children are related to the current distinction, that has no legal basis. Where that distinction is removed, parents can be the arbitrators, or best able to provide guidance for the child. 

“When that system is put in place, it could result in significant benefits for the children.”

Parental consent is the key to these recommendations, and if the children are not able to obtain the consent of their parents, O’Hare talks about other options: “If parents don’t give consent, the review group recommends that a legal process be put in place where consent can be obtained from parents that might constitute 3rd party support, or a legal process where someone will have to get a court order.”

O’Hare admits that “parental agreement is the guiding principle” of these recommendations. “The key is this - a simple mechanism to revoke gender identity if that is required and there will be a legal mechanism if the agreement is not obtained.”

The current legislation enables a person, aged 18 or over, to have their preferred gender recognized in law, based on self- declaration. Once a gender recognition certificate is issued, the person’s preferred gender becomes the legal gender for all purposes, including documents such as birth certificates and passports.

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