Transgender law open to review, says Humphreys

Senators claim deficiencies in the Gender Recognition Bill 2014

Minister of State Kevin Humphreys, who said the amendment was practical and reasonable. Photograph: Davd Sleator/The Irish Times

Minister of State Kevin Humphreys, who said the amendment was practical and reasonable. Photograph: Davd Sleator/The Irish Times

 

Minister of State Kevin Humphreys accepted the principle of a Seanad amendment to have the legislation recognising the identity of transgender people reviewed.

“This is ground-breaking legislation and a priority for the Tánaiste,” he said.

He was responding to Independent Senator Katherine Zappone who sought, on behalf of a number of Senators, to amend the Gender Recognition Bill 2014 and have it reviewed not later than two years after enactment and, again, not later than five years after that date.

Speaking during the committee stage debate on the Bill, she said the review, which would be reported to the Dáil and Seanad, would cover the Act’s consistency with international best practice in the field of gender recognition.

It would also examine its compliance with national, regional and international equality and human rights standards.

“There is an ongoing debate as to how progressive the Bill is,” said Ms Zappone. She added a commitment to a review would demonstrate the Government’s intention that the statutes would comply with human rights on an ongoing basis.

Mr Humphreys said the amendment was practical and reasonable and he would introduce his own amendment at report stage to cover it.

Independent Senator David Norris said it was important to monitor the operation of the legislation.

“This is very new and it would not have been contemplated 15 to 20 years ago, despite the heroic efforts of Dr Lydia Foy and others,” he added.

“It is a new and fast-developing area and different European countries are developing at different levels and speeds.”

Like homosexuality, said Mr Norris, transgender was regarded as unmentionable and people were afraid of it. He said he remembered being on the Limerick bus as a child and seeing “a woman, as I thought, with very hairy legs and heavy tweeds, being taken by gardaí because she wore a skirt”.

Paschal Mooney of Fianna Fáil said there would be a view there were inherent flaws in the legislation and the amendment would go some way to addressing questions about its drafting and the substantive nature of some of its proposals.

Ivana Bacik of Labour said it would be sensible to have a review and it would address some of the issues raised with Senators in briefings by groups represented in the public gallery.