Children’s rights group seeks law changes on gender choice

Boys of all ages who clearly identify themselves as being of a different gender than their actual sex should be allowed to enrol in girls’ schools, and vice versa, under changes to a new law being sought by children’s rights’ groups.

Campaigners including Independent senator Jillian van Turnhout will ask a cross-party Dáil committee tasked with examining amendments to the Gender Recognition Bill to make the changes today, to ensure children in such situations are fully accepted by the State.

Under the proposed legislation, due to be passed into law by the end of July, people over 16 who identify as being of a different gender to their actual sex will be officially recognised by their new sex.

In addition, people who have already undergone transgender operation changes will also be able to identify as their new sex in official documentation.

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The bill was ratified by cabinet last month in response to a 2010 European Court of Human Rights case taken against the State by Dr Lydia Foy. It is currently going through the Dáil and Senate, including ratification today by the Oireachtas sub-committee on social protection.

However, despite being seen as a forward-thinking step to allow for hundreds of people to be recognised by their new identity, Ms van Turnhout along with her former group the Children’s Rights Alliance and the National Youth Council of Ireland have warned it is ignoring the needs of children under 16.

While saying no one is talking about allowing a child to undergo a sex- change operation, the Independent senator said what the groups sought is for dozens of children to be given interim certificates confirming they can be recognised as the gender they identify with before becoming an adult.

Ms van Turnhout said this should include allowing boys “of all ages” to enrol in girls’ schools, and visa versa, in order to ensure they are recognised by their new gender and to end the “nightmare” situation they will otherwise face while growing up.

The National Youth Council of Ireland and the Children’s Rights Alliance last night backed the call, saying the bill’s current wording — while progressive — still “ignores the rights and needs of children”.

However, it is understood that ministers are split on where they stand on the issue, to be debated alongside several other amendments by the social protection sub-committee this afternoon.

Meanwhile, the Government has decided not to oppose a technical group private members’ motion seeking the deletion of the right of religious-run schools to effectively ban gay teachers from working at the facilities due to the ethos of the institutions.

Socialist Party TDs Ruth Coppinger, Paul Murphy, and Joe Higgins put the proposal before the Dáil in the first of a two-day debate last night.

The Government said it was not opposing the bill in principle. Equality Minister Aodhán Ó Ríordáin had recently confirmed a bill on the same issue will be put forward in the coming weeks.

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