Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Speech on the 2nd Reading of the Marriage (Amendment) Bill 2014

Mr President, on October 2, there was an event held in Hong Kong – “High Level Roundtable on Gender Identity, Rights and the Law” – which was organized by the Center for Comparative and Public Law of the University of Hong Kong and the United Nations Development Program, among others, and the event was well attended by medical and legal professionals, transgender persons and activists, NGO workers, academics and educators, etc.

At the end of the conference, there were ten key messages coming out as a result of the conference. And I want to read out these messages so that we can enter these messages into our council’s record, and to give a more global perspective to our discussion.

These ten key messages are:

1. Gender recognition, in documents and in law, is important for transgender people.

2. Without such recognition, it is difficult or impossible to enjoy the rights and opportunities available to other people in one’s society.

3. Failure to extend recognition is a rights issue, and has consequences for transgender people’s health and wellbeing.

4. Onerous preconditions for recognition (depriving many transgender people of opportunities to be recognized in their experienced gender) run counter to international rights norms and state commitments under key international conventions. They also make no sense on health grounds.

5. Medical preconditions, involving surgery (including sterilization surgery) and hormones are particularly problematic, on the grounds that they serve to coerce people into undergoing medical procedures. Some of those procedures are invasive, complex, and often beset with complications. They may be medically inadvisable for some transgender people.

6. We endorse recent calls by influential voices in health and rights (WHO, UNDP, OHCHR, UN Women, UNAIDS, UNFPA, UNICEF, the UN Special Rapporteur on Torture, OSF, WPATH, Amnesty International, and the American Medical Association) for more progressive policies on gender recognition for transgender people.

7. We endorse the Global Commission on HIV and the Law’s recommendations related to transgender people and calling on countries to: (a) stop punishing transgender people for being who they are. Instead, repeal laws that criminalize behaviors associated with transgender identity and amend anti-discrimination laws to explicitly include gender identity, non-conforming gender status, and sexual orientation; (b) ensure that transgender people have access to health care supplies and services (including preventive services) in non-discriminatory environments, as well as access to health care personnel trained to respond to their unique medical and health needs; (c) remove existing barriers (whether legal, administrative, or regulatory) that prohibit transgender and people of non-conforming gender status from forming public community organizations and associations; (d) recognize and respect existing civil and religious laws and practices that support individual privacy; and (e) change laws and administrative policies to enable transgender people to obtain identification documents that reflect their lived gender, whether or not they have undergone any gender-related medical procedures.

8. We agree with the recent Open Society Foundations Report, “License to be Yourself”, on gender recognition listing the following best practices in regard to gender recognition: (a) recognition based on self-defined gender identity, with no pathologising diagnosis required; (b) recognition that does not require forced sterilization or medical procedures; (c) recognition that does not require living continuously or permanently in one’s gender identity; (d) recognition that does not require divorce or a civil partnership; (e) recognition that allows existing or prospective parenting; (f) recognition that is available to children; (g) recognition that includes intersex people; (h) recognition that applies to all residents , including those born overseas; (i) procedures that are simple, timely, low-cost, transparent rather than discretionary, and protective of privacy.

9. We note that an increasing number of jurisdictions worldwide are adopting more progressive policies along the lines of what is recommended by the Global Commission on HIV and the Law and in the OSF report. We welcome court decisions from South Asia, including Bangladesh, India, Nepal and Pakistan, recognizing third gender identity without medical preconditions. We also welcome gender identity legislations from Argentina and Denmark, in which individuals are able to determine their legal gender status through a simple administrative process.

10. We urge Hong Kong legislators to reject any legislative proposal that requires of transgender people that they undergo any form of medical treatment as a precondition for gender recognition.

So, it is obvious to us at the Professional Commons that the current amendments to the Marriage Bill is exactly that, requiring transgender people to undergo extreme and tortuous medical treatment as a precondition for gender recognition. So we will vote nay, against this amendment bill. And we support the call for the government to serious look into and consult the public about establishing a gender recognition act.

Thank you, Mr President.


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