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In January 2016, the House of Commons Select Committee on Women and Equalities published its highly anticipated report, ‘Transgender Equality’. From September to December 2015, the Committee undertook a ‘Transgender Equality Inquiry’, investigating ‘how far, and in what ways [transgender] people still have yet to achieve full equality [in the United Kingdom]; and how [those] outstanding issues can most effectively be addressed’. The Inquiry received written submissions from approximately 250 groups or individuals, and, during four public sessions, questioned more than 20 expert witnesses, including current members of cabinet.
For family lawyers, the most relevant sections of the Report concern the rules for legal gender recognition. This article reports, and critically reflects upon, the Committee’s proposals in this area. The Report recommends that, in line with recent human rights developments, transgender adults in the UK should access a Gender Recognition Certificate by a process of self-determination. Minors, currently excluded from the recognition system, should have a right to apply once they reach the age of 16 years. On the other hand, the Committee makes no recommendations regarding the existing 'spousal consent' requirement, nor are there proposed reforms for non-gendered or non-binary birth certificates. While the Committee’s report does not address all current flaws within the Gender Recognition Act 2004, its proposals have the potential to significantly enhance life quality for transgender communities in the UK.
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