UN rights chief lauds Australian move on identity for transgender, intersex people

16 September 2011

The United Nations human rights chief today welcomed Australia’s decision to enable its citizens who are transgender or intersex, or who do not wish to identify themselves as either male or female, to have their sex and gender identity properly reflected on their passports.

“By its action, Australia has placed itself in the vanguard of change and has scored an important victory for human rights,” High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay said in a news release.

The option of expressing a change of gender or indeterminate gender will now be open to Australians who have had appropriate clinical treatment – and not necessarily physical treatment.

“This is something that will be welcome news for many transgender and intersex people in Australia who from now on will not be required to undergo surgery or hormonal treatment in order to be able to express their gender identity,” said Ms. Pillay.

“Without official recognition of their preferred gender, transgender and intersex individuals face a wide range of practical, everyday challenges – for example, when applying for a job, opening a bank account or travelling,” she noted.

“Making it simpler for people to obtain official documents that reflect their preferred gender will make life easier for thousands of people, in the process removing barriers that until now have prevented them from exercising their human rights on an equal footing with others.”

According to the High Commissioner, more States are starting to recognize the need to reflect sex and gender diversity, with countries such as Nepal, Portugal, the United Kingdom and Uruguay having taken “pioneering” steps in recent years to make it easier for transgender and intersex persons to obtain legal recognition of a change of gender, or to indicate a gender other than male or female.

She urged all States to review their laws, policies and practices to ensure that discrimination against transgender and intersex individuals is addressed in a systematic and effective way.

 

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