UN Resolution on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity, Gender Recognition


Order of Business

Wednesday, 22 June 2011


Katherine Zappone

On 20 June, last Monday, the United Nations Human Rights Council passed a resolution on human rights violations based on sexual orientation and gender identity. This was a groundbreaking achievement, upholding the principles of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. It was also an historic resolution as it was the first UN resolution to bring specific focus to human rights violations based on sexual orientation and gender identity. The resolution also affirms the universality of human rights, that it extends to every human being, and notes concerns about acts of violence and discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity. The resolution specifically requests the High Commissioner for Human Rights to prepare a study on violence and discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity. Hopefully, this will be finalised by the end of the year. The resolution also calls for a panel discussion to be held at the Human Rights Council to discuss the findings of the study in a constructive and transparent manner and to consider appropriate follow-up measures.

I raise this issue in order to draw our attention, as lawmakers, to an historic resolution on human rights emanating from the UN Human Rights Council. I also raise this issue because it has a direct bearing on the fact that Ireland has marked the one-year anniversary of the Government’s withdrawal of its appeal in the case of Dr. Lydia Foy. We are one year on from the Government’s acknowledgement that Ireland is in breach of the European Convention on Human Rights because of its failure to provide for the issuing of new birth certificates to transgender persons. Dr. Lydia Foy cannot change her birth certificate. She has been on this legal journey for 14 years and I hail her as a courageous, brave and perseverant change maker. Four years ago, the High Court first ruled that the failure to recognise Dr. Lydia Foy in her female gender and to provide her with a new birth certificate was a violation of human rights under the European Convention on Human Rights. Mr. Justice McKechnie declared that Ireland is isolated within the member states of the Council of Europe and must be further disconnected from mainstream thinking.

Last year, the Government formed the interdepartmental gender recognition advisory group to provide recommendations for legislation required for legal recognition of the acquired gender of transsexuals. The group has been established under the Department of Social Protection. I am deeply concerned that so much time has passed since the judgment and the establishment of the advisory group. The current situation causes severe distress to many transgender people in Ireland, affecting their health, their families and their jobs. I ask the Leader for an update from the Minister for Social Protection on the following questions. When will the recommendations of the advisory group be made to the Minister? Will the Minister make the recommendations public? This will assist our work if they are made public, specifically when we come to the consideration of the Bill that will better protect and promote the human rights of transgender people in Ireland by providing them with legal recognition.

Human Rights
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