Government should change law on transgender people now

20 April 2009

The Government must commit itself to changing the law to legally recognise transgendered people, according to FLAC, which is representing a transgender woman in her bid for legal recognition.

Michael Farrell is FLAC's Senior Solicitor and acts for Dr Lydia Foy in her legal action to obtain a new birth certificate in her female gender. Mr Farrell said the Government is obliged under the European Convention on Human Rights to recognise transgendered people in their "new" or acquired gender. "They should recognise that this is a human rights issue and start the process of changing the law now," he stated.

Mr Farrell said the European Court of Human Rights has made it absolutely clear that all member states of the Council of Europe must recognise transgendered people. According to him, the Irish High Court has stated that Ireland is "very much isolated in Europe" on this issue. The UN Human Rights Committee and the European Commissioner for Human Rights have also called on the Government to change the law.

"The Government does not have to wait for the outcome of the appeal in the Foy case before taking action", said Mr Farrell. "The principle is clear and unambiguous and does not depend upon the details on any individual case."

"To wait until the appeal is over and only then begin the slow process of consulting interested groups and drafting legislation would condemn transgendered people to another five to ten years of living in a legal limbo and suffering daily embarrassment and humiliation".

"By agreeing now to change the law and beginning the process of consultation immediately, the Government could save a group of vulnerable people a lot of unnecessary pain and could put in place safeguards to protect the children and former spouses of transgendered people as well".

Mr Farrell was speaking in the context of a major conference on transgender rights and issues which took place on 17 and 18 April in Dublin. The event was organised by the Union of Students in Ireland, BeLonG To Youth Service and the Transgender Equality Network Ireland, entitled 'Transforming Attitudes'.

He also praised the courage, patience and perseverance of Dr Lydia Foy who began her legal proceedings 12 years ago in April 1997 and who still faces an anxious wait for a final decision in her case from the Supreme Court.