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Home > People's rights > Transsexual people - Update

Transsexual People - Update

August 2002


Introduction

The question of the extent to which the acquired gender of transsexual people should be recognised has been under consideration for some time.

An Interdepartmental Working Group on Transsexual People was set up by the then Home Secretary in April 1999 and tasked with considering - with special reference to birth certificates - the need for appropriate legal measures to address the problems experienced by transsexual people. The Working Group was particularly asked to pay due regard to scientific and societal developments, and measures undertaken in other countries.

Its report was presented to Parliament in July 2000. The report recorded the current legal position of transsexual people in the UK in areas including marriage, family law, the criminal justice system, employment, social security, insurance and sport.

It identified three possible options:

but made no firm recommendation as to the action to be taken by Government.

Since then the report has been under active consideration within Government - both before and after the transfer of responsibility for co-ordination of the Working Group to the Lord Chancellor's Department following the General Election in June 2001.

We announced in a press notice on 21 June that the Working Group on Transsexual People was to be reconvened to give further consideration to issues affecting transsexual people, including matters such as birth certificates, inheritance provision, family law and pension rights. Ministers had decided that reconvening the interdepartmental group of officials was the best way to achieve comprehensive consideration of the wide range of such issues, which affect the policy responsibilities of a number of other Government Departments and of the devolved administrations.

Ministers have now also asked the reconvened Working Group to look urgently into the implications of the judgments of the European Court of Human Rights in the cases of Christine Goodwin -v- the United Kingdom and I -v- the United Kingdom, and to make recommendations.

These wide-ranging judgments were delivered on 11 July 2002. The Court found that the United Kingdom had breached the Convention rights of these two transsexual people under Article 8 (respect for private life) and Article 12 (right to marry).

The Government is obliged, under international law, to implement the judgments and will decide as soon as possible how to do so. The Working Group anticipates making recommendations to Ministers in October. The Government plans to make an announcement later in the autumn on how it expects to implement the judgments.



Parliamentary Questions - July 2002

The text of relevant Parliamentary Questions answered by LCD Ministers Rosie Winterton and Baroness Scotland in July, before Parliament rose for the recess, follows:

Mr. Pickthall: To ask the Parliamentary Secretary, Lord Chancellor's Department when she will make a statement about the ECHR judgments in the cases of Goodwin v. UK and I v. UK; and when she expects British transsexuals will be able (a) to change their NI numbers and (b) to marry. [71488]

Ms Rosie Winterton: The Government reconvened recently the Interdepartmental Working Group on Transsexual People, to re-examine the implications of granting full legal status to transsexual people in their acquired gender, and to make recommendations to Ministers before the end of this year. It has now been tasked additionally with considering urgently the implications of the judgments of the European Court of Human Rights in the cases of Christine Goodwin v. The United Kingdom and I v. The United Kingdom.

The Government are obliged, under international law, to implement the judgments and will decide as soon as possible how to do so. The devolved Administrations are also considering their approach to these issues where responsibilities are devolved.

The matters under consideration include policy on marriage and national insurance arrangements. Transsexual people may already obtain new national insurance cards in their new names.

Following the ruling, statutes must be interpreted in the light of the ECtHR findings and, where a statute allows, discretion must be exercised differently in any case where the traditional interpretation or exercise of discretion would result in a violation of a transsexual person's Convention rights.

Lynne Jones: To ask the Parliamentary Secretary, Lord Chancellor's Department

  1. whether the Government accepts the ruling of the European Court of Human Rights in the case of Goodwin and I; what action is being taken to bring UK law into compliance with the ruling; and if she will make a statement; [71604]

  2. what the terms of reference are of the reconvened Interdepartmental Working Group on Transsexual Rights. [71605]

Ms Rosie Winterton: The Government will decide their response to the Court's judgments as soon as possible. We had already reconvened the Interdepartmental Working Group on Transsexual People because the issues faced by the transsexual community affect the policy of a large number of Government Departments and the devolved Administrations.

The group met on 9 July. Its agreed terms of reference are:

"In the light of the report of the Interdepartmental Working Group on Transsexual People and more recent relevant developments, to re-examine the implications of granting full legal status to transsexual people in their acquired gender; and to make recommendations".

These terms of reference remain valid subsequent to the ruling of the ECtHR, delivered on 11 July: but the Working Group has been tasked to consider urgently the implications of the judgments in the cases of Christine Goodwin v. The United Kingdom and I v. The United Kingdom. The Government are obliged, under international law, to implement the judgments and will decide as soon as possible how to do so. The devolved Administrations are also considering their approach to these issues where responsibilities are devolved. Recommendations on a course of action will be put to Ministers in October for collective decisions to be reached during the autumn.

Following the ruling, statutes must be interpreted in the light of the ECtHR findings and, where a statute allows, discretion must be exercised differently in any case where the traditional interpretation or exercise of discretion would result in a violation of a transsexual person's Convention rights.

Lord Lester of Herne Hill asked Her Majesty's Government:

  1. What are the reasons for the continuing delay in introducing legislation to give transsexuals legal recognition and the right to marry in accordance with the European Convention on Human Rights; and

  2. whether they will speedily introduce such legislation.[HL5289]

Baroness Scotland of Asthal: The Government recently reconvened the Interdepartmental Working Group on Transsexual People to re-examine the implications of granting full legal status to transsexual people in their acquired gender, and to make recommendations to Ministers before the end of this year. The working group met on 9 July. It has now been tasked additionally with considering urgently the implications of the judgments of the European Court of Human Rights in the cases of Christine Goodwin v. The United Kingdom and I v. The United Kingdom.

Reconvening the working group has been necessary as the interests of transsexual people touch on the policy responsibilities of a large number of government departments and the devolved administrations. Responses to the Court's ruling must be carefully co-ordinated.

The Government are obliged, under international law, to implement the judgments and will decide as soon as possible how to do so. The devolved administrations are also considering their approach to these issues where responsibilities are devolved.

Following the ruling, statutes must be interpreted in the light of the ECtHR findings and, where a statute allows, discretion must be exercised differently in any case where the traditional interpretation of exercise of discretion would result in a violation of a transsexual person's convention rights.


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