In Defence of Liberty

Driven by data; ridden with liberty.

On the Trans Inquiry

On-The-Trans-Inquiry-House-Of-Commons

The report is long and considered. (Source: House of Commons)

The Women and Equalities Committee in the House of Common published its report into transgender equality in Britain [1]. The report begins:

Fairness and equality are basic British values. A litmus test for any society that upholds those values is how far it protects even the most marginalised groups. Britain has been among the countries going furthest in recognising lesbian, gay and bisexual rights, but we are still failing this test in respect of trans people, despite welcome progress.

“Significant inconsistency”

The case of Tara Hudson, a transgender woman from Bath who was placed into an all-male prison, gained national coverage after an online petition carried over 150,000 signatures [2].

The challenges faced by transgender people in the prison system was punctuated by the deaths of Vikki Thompson [3] and Joanne Latham [4], both found dead in prison. The Prison Service Intruction on Care and Management of Transsexual Prisoners (PSI 07/2011), written by the National Offender Management Service, did state that prisoners “sufficiently advanced in the gender reassigned process” can be placed “in the estate of their acquired gender, even if the law does not yet recognised they are of their acquired gender”. The inquiry heard that “there has been significant inconsistency in the actual application of the Instruction”.

The ability for a transgender person to have their acquired gender respected in law was part of the pioneering Gender Recognition Act 2004 [5]. A Gender Recognition Certificate requires a trans person to prove that they are aged over 18, a documented diagnosis of gender dysphoria, are not married or in a civil partnership, have lived fully for the last two years in their acquired gender, and intend to do so for the rest of their life. The inquiry heard that the current process was “bureaucratic”, “expensive” and “humiliating”. Indeed, a transgender person may have great difficulties with their identity documents in the two year period before they even meet the criteria for the GRC.

“Quick, transparent and accessible”

The Council of Europe’s Resolution 2048 on discrimination against transgender people states that governments should “develop quick, transparent and accessible procedures, based on self-determination” [6]. Multiple other nations have undertaken this standard of self-declaration, such as in the Netherlands, Argentina, Denmark, Malta, Columbia and Ireland. There were also concerns expressed to the inquiry that the requirement for a formal diagnosis implicitly meant transgender identities were treated as pathologies.

The inquiry also considered whether existing state processes could be made more agnostic of gender, either by allowing the introduction of an indeterminate value for gender on passports, as in Australia, or by removing gender from passport documentation entirely. There were discussions in the report about the ‘spousal’ veto. Other parts of the inquiry considered the bullying that transgender people receive, and difficulties young transgender people may have at school. According to the EHRC:

Research indicates that 91% of trans boys and 66% of trans girls experience harassment or bullying at school, leading to depression, isolation and a desire to leave education as early as possible.

Ongoing

This inquiry highlights that, even with recent legislation, equality for citizens in front of the law and for public services is not simply something that is achieved at a single point in time. It must be part of an ongoing discussion into how the government affects all of our lives.

References

[1] Women and Equalities Committee, 2016. Transgender Equality. Available from: http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm201516/cmselect/cmwomeq/390/390.pdf [Accessed: 23rd January 2016]

[2] Masters, A., 2015. The Injustice facing Tara Hudson. In Defence of Liberty. Available from: https://anthonymasters.wordpress.com/2015/10/29/the-injustice-facing-tara-hudson/ [Accessed: 23rd January 2016]

[3] BBC, 2015. Transgender woman found Vikki Thompson found dead at Armley jail. Available from: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-leeds-34869620 [Accessed: 23rd January 2016]

[4] BBC, 2015. Transgender inmate found dead in Woodhill prison cell. Available from: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-beds-bucks-herts-34972221 [Accessed: 23rd January 2016]

[5] UK Legislation, 2004. Gender Recognition Act 2004. Available from: http://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/2004/7/contents [Accessed: 23rd January 2016]

[6] Council of Europe, 2015. Resolution 2048. Available from: http://assembly.coe.int/nw/xml/XRef/Xref-XML2HTML-EN.asp?fileid=21736&lang=en [Accessed: 23rd January 2016]

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This entry was posted on January 29, 2016 by in National Politics and tagged , , , .
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