Ireland: Transgender people ‘short-changed’ by new bill

Ireland must allow transgender people to have their gender legally recognized in a quick, transparent and accessible manner, Amnesty International said after the country’s Gender Recognition Bill was published today.

The organization called on the Irish authorities to remove restrictions on gender recognition for married transgender people and minors, and to ensure that transgender people can obtain legal gender recognition without having to provide medical certification.

“This is a missed opportunity to enshrine the rights of all transgender people in Irish law. This bill will require substantial changes if it is to tackle the serious issue of discrimination against transgender people,” said Denis Krivosheev, Amnesty International’s Acting Europe and Central Asia Director.

“Rather than making it as easy as possible for all transgender people to obtain legal recognition of their identity, there are several groups that will be short-changed by the bill – in particular those who are married or in civil partnerships, minors, and those who do not wish to undergo medical treatment.”

The bill states that applicants for legal gender identity changes are not allowed to be married or in a civil partnership. This means that transgender people who are married will be forced to divorce their partners if they wish to change their gender identity.

Divorce in Ireland requires five years of living apart – or two years of separation for civil partnerships – meaning many people will not be eligible for gender identity recognition even if they are separated.

“The bill completely overlooks the needs of those who may wish to remain married, or who are going through divorce proceedings, while obtaining legal recognition of their gender. This is a violation of their human rights,” said Denis Krivosheev.

“Instead, the bill cruelly forces transgender people to separate from their loved one – and then spend years in limbo without either a partner or the legal recognition of their identity. Their only alternative being to sacrifice their gender identity in order to stay together.”

Amnesty International is also concerned that the bill requires a medical certificate by an applicant’s psychiatrist or endocrinologist as evidence that the person is in transition or has transitioned. 

“Requiring a medical ‘certificate’ can result not only in the stigmatization of transgender people, but also in the need for health treatments that transgender people may not wish to undergo and are not medically necessary,” said Denis Krivosheev.

The bill also stipulates that 16 and 17-year-olds require a court order to obtain legal recognition of their gender.

“Rather than enforcing a blanket age restriction, a case-by-case approach should be applied towards children, in which the child’s views and best interest are taken into account, as outlined by the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child,” said Denis Krivosheev.

“Ireland’s Gender Recognition Bill is a welcome piece of legislation, but it requires several amendments to fulfil its potential as a truly progressive move by the authorities.”