Diagnosis for Human Rights?

Human Rights in Ireland is pleased to welcome this guest post from Ben Power. Ben is the Board and Company Secretary for Transgender Equality Network Ireland. For more information on TENI’s work see www.teni.ie

Transgender Equality Network Ireland (TENI) is Ireland’s national trans organisation. We seek to improve conditions and advance the human rights and equality of trans people and their families. We are dedicated to ending transphobia, including stigma, discrimination and inequality. As part of this, one of the most important campaigns we are currently working on is the introduction of fully inclusive Gender Recognition Legislation. This provides a process enabling trans people to achieve full legal recognition of their preferred gender and allows for the acquisition of a new birth certificate that reflects this change. The introduction of legislation will make it easier for trans people in Ireland to lead safe, healthy and integrated lives.  Legislation has been proposed, however, much of it is restrictive and would infringe on the rights and privacy of trans people. In October 2012, a blog carnival to mark the 5th anniversary of Dr Foy’s victory  in the High Court was used to highlight the issues with the proposed legislation. Read it here.

So why does Gender Recognition Matter so much? What makes it so important?

There are many situations in an individual’s life where they are required to present a birth certificate in order to obtain their legal entitlements. For a transgender person this poses some complications. When the name and gender on your birth certificate is vastly different from the name you currently use and how you present your gender, questions will always be asked and this invariably leads to an awkward explanation forcing the trans person to “out” themselves, Continue reading

Families Against Forced Divorce

Families Against Forced Divorce: To protect the privacy of our children and our spouses, we feel we are unable to publicly put our names to this article.

In a country where divorce was illegal twenty years ago, is it about to be made compulsory for some?  Imagine being told that the State will not legally recognise your identity unless you first divorce your husband or wife.  This is not some nightmare scenario from the Nazi 1930s.  It’s all too real and about to be inflicted on transgender families in Ireland today.

Ireland remains the last of the 27 EU Nations which still does not allow Gender Recognition for transgender people. This lack of legal recognition of our true gender has many important implications for our lives.  First and foremost is the lack of being respected and protected in Irish law in our true gender which impacts on every corner of our lives.

Without such protection, difficulties can arise in our jobs, pensions, insurance, foreign travel and even our ability to engage in most sporting activities to the point that we simply cannot participate at all.  For example, to play ladies golf you must be recognised by the State as a woman.  Or, what do you think your chances of getting a job would be if you are “outed” as a transgender person in the process?  Only with full Gender Recognition can we hope to move on with our lives.

Marriages where one spouse is transgender are lucky to survive.  Let us look at one example: Sandra and Michelle.  Sandra suffered from Gender Identity Disorder and always felt female despite the fact that she had a functioning male body.

At the time Sandra married Michelle in 1990, she was endeavouring to be the “man” that society expected her to be.  Their marriage is fully valid Continue reading

O'Sullivan: Five years is a long time

Dr Orlaith O’Sullivan is Communications Officer for TENI. To find out more about TENI’s work see www.teni.ie

Five years is a long time.

The world has moved on in the five years since 19 October 2007, when Mr Justice Liam McKechnie explained in no uncertain terms that the State was in breach of the European Convention on Human Rights and that the Irish Government needed to prioritise Gender Recognition Legislation as a matter of urgency. Five years on, it may feel like Ireland is no closer to enabling its transgender residents to access their fundamental human rights. We’re the last country in the EU to legislate. The legislative proposals that we have are deeply problematic: forcing a choice between family and identity; forcing diagnosis of mental illness in order to access a basic human right. And people with intersex conditions – as so often happens – are left out. Legislation based on current proposals would be out of date before even enacted, and would certainly be challenged in Irish and European courts. A progress report on Ireland’s gender recognition legislation can make for pretty bleak reading.

Yet despite the feeling of stagnancy, there has been tremendous change in the interim. And the single most significant change in the last five years is us. Trans activism has grown from its core of peer trans support – patiently, stubbornly, indefatigably – spreading the word that trans rights are human rights, plain and simple. In 2005 a small group of activists sat together in a living room in Dublin and dared to imagine a national trans advocacy organisation for Ireland. In 2012, their vision is a vibrant, thriving reality.

Transgender Equality Network Ireland (TENI) works day-to-day supporting individuals and families facing gender identity issues for the first time. We raise trans awareness Continue reading

Farrell: Foy Delay Undermines European Convention on Human Rights Act 2003

Michael Farrell is the senior solicitor with Free legal Advice Centres, which has represented Lydia Foy since the beginning of her legal proceedings in 1997.

Today marks the fifth anniversary of the High Court decision that the Irish State had violated the rights of transgender woman Lydia Foy.  The Court used a new procedure under the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) Act, 2003 to declare that Irish law was in breach of the Human Rights Convention because of its failure to provide for recognising trans persons in their acquired and lived-in gender.

It was the first ever declaration of incompatibility with the ECHR, a mechanism introduced to protect people’s rights under the Convention where they were not recognised or adequately protected under the Irish Constitution.

In giving his judgment on 19th October 2007, Mr Justice Liam McKechnie expressed considerable frustration that the Government had done nothing to recognise trans persons in the previous five years despite the fact that the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg had found against the UK in 2002 over the same issue and almost identical legislation.

Judge McKechnie noted that the UK had moved quickly to amend its laws Continue reading

Guest Post: Louise Hannon at the Equality Tribunal.

We are pleased to welcome this guest post from Tanya ni Mhuirthile of the Faculty of Law, UCC. Tanya is a member of the Board of Directors of the Transgender Equality Network Ireland.

The recent decision of the Equality Tribunal that discrimination on the basis of gender identity amounts to a breach of rights under the Employment Equality Acts is to be welcomed. It represents a huge step forward in terms of protection for those who have questioned their gender at birth.

Continue reading