Monday, 20 December 2010

Times: Bill seeks easier sex change recognition
Saturday, 11th December 2010 by Kurt Sansone

It would no longer be a prerequisite for transgender people to undergo gender re-assignment surgery to have their sex change recognised at law if a draft bill proposed by the Malta Gay Rights Movement goes through.

The Bill, called the Gender Identity Act, was yesterday presented as a Private Member's Bill in Parliament by Labour MP Evarist Bartolo, who has the backing of opposition leader Joseph Muscat.

The Bill's author, MGRM legal consultant Neil Falzon, said the underlying principle was to replace the court process that transgender people needed to undergo today with a simpler, less intrusive and cheaper administrative procedure.

The Bill comes just days after the Constitutional Court granted transsexual Joanne Cassar the right to marry; a landmark case which she has battled to win for four years.

Dr Falzon said although on paper gender reassignment surgery was not a prerequisite for transgender people to be able to obtain court permission to change legal documents, reality had shown the case to be otherwise.

"An Act like this would remove legal ambiguities making the process of notifying a person's change in gender less dependent on interpretation by the courts," Dr Falzon said.

The Bill also seeks to change certain provisions in force today, which according to Dr Falzon are in breach of human rights.

The new law, he said, would ensure transgender people who are married would not be forced into an annulment if they wanted their sex change recognised at law.

"Parental duties would still apply to an individual with children who asks the authorities to legally recognise his new gender," Dr Falzon said.

Another aspect the Bill will seek to amend is the annotation on official documents of an individual's legal sex change, which according to current legislation introduced in 2004 should remain attached to the original Act in the public registry.

"This means anybody can see the annotation, in breach of an individual's privacy. The Bill suggests the introduction of a secret register where the sex change is annotated as is the case for adopted children," Dr Falzon said.

MGRM president Gabi Calleja said gender identity was linked to an individual's feelings and actions, insisting the transgender community remained a marginalised and victimised group.

When asked whether the Bill enjoyed widespread support among MPs, Ms Calleja said "lack of information should not be an excuse to do nothing" about the difficulties this small group of people faced.

Mr Bartolo urged MPs to sideline their prejudices and appealed to the government to put the Bill on Parliament's agenda.

Nationalist MP Karl Gouder, who was present at the press conference, said he had not yet seen the Bill but supported the cause.

"We should try to minimise pain wherever it is present and hopefully we will find the best way forward," Mr Gouder said, adding he would try to get the matter discussed within the party structures.

Also present for the launch were Labour MP Leo Brincat and Nationalist Sliema councillor Cyrus Engerer.

[Click on the hyperlink above to view the comments on the Times' website.]

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