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tasnewslafm header 2019

Gender law concerns 'overstated'

gender

Fears that predators will exploit Tasmania's new gender identification laws are being played down by the state's peak law reform body.

Preliminary findings have been released by the Tasmanian Law Reform Institute, examining the operational effects of making gender optional on birth certificates and allowing people to legally transition without reassignment surgery.

"The legislation isn't as scary as some people might think and while it is essentially the most progressive in Australia so far, it's quite in line with what other reform institutes have considered," Research fellow and co-author Dylan Richards said.  

"But it is preliminary and we're looking for input from the community and from various stakeholders to share their views so that we can put together a final report later in the year." 

One of the concerns was that men could easily change sex to access female-only safe spaces such as women's prisons or domestic violence shelters.

"The legislation actually has false declaration provisions with quite stiff penalties attached which go some way to countering those issues," Mr Richards said.

"You can't change your gender at a whim, while it is certainly easier now given that you don't need to show evidence of sexual reassignment surgery, the gender declaration statement is eqivalent to a statutory declaration. So if you lie on it, you are on the hook, legally speaking. And the registrar has the capacity to request more information if they consider it necessary."  

The highly publicised changes - which were passed by parliament in April this year - will also provide more gender diverse options in registration documents.

Attorney General Elise Archer commissioned the TLRI - a major arm of the University of Tasmania - to examine how amendments to the Justice and Related Legislation (Marriage and Gender Amendments) Act 2019, would interact with current laws. 

It's so far found the controversial amendments are in line with international trends and human rights obligations, but does raise concern about issues of consent relating to invasive medical procedures on children.

"It's estimated about 10% of people are born with sex characteristics which don't neatly fit into a male or female category. It's been practiced for some time to perform surgeries on these infants to 'normalise' them, but this has continuing consquences for people that have to grow up with decisions of doctors or parents who may not have got it right," Mr Richards said.

"The intersex community has been talking about this issue for many years - that they've been assigned incorrectly as infants. The new legislation doesn't really address this topic at all and we think this is a good opportunity to actually address that."

The paper also found potential impacts on police search powers, passport applications and access to gender-specific programs had been overstated.

Community feedback can been given until August 20 on (03) 6226 2069 or [email protected]


 Image: Pexels