Gender Recognition (Approved Countries and Territories and Saving Provision) Order 2023 Debate

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Department: Department for Education

Gender Recognition (Approved Countries and Territories and Saving Provision) Order 2023

Baroness Barker Excerpts
Tuesday 12th March 2024

(4 months, 1 week ago)

Grand Committee
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Lord Henley Portrait Lord Henley (Con)
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My Lords, I apologise to the noble Baroness, Lady Thornton, for trying to get in to speak before her. I want to make only a brief intervention in this debate, merely because I am intrigued to know about the list of approved countries and territories and what is included. We have in the Explanatory Note a list of the countries that were included in 2011. It includes quite a lot of Australian states and territories, some of which have, I think, been added to this list. It then goes on to include others, including—as one would expect—countries of a progressive sort, such as Sweden.

What I find particularly peculiar is that it then includes countries such as Iran. What is the Iranian legislation on this matter? Are we allowed to see it? Is it appropriate? Is Iranian legislation really fit for purpose on a matter of this sort? I appreciate that, as my noble friend put it, only 4% of applicants are using the overseas route, so we are talking about tiny numbers, but the inclusion of countries such as Iran and one or two others—I shall not mention them, but Iran is probably the most obvious—requires some proper explanation from the Government about why they are there and what is the Iranian legislation behind it.

Baroness Barker Portrait Baroness Barker (LD)
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My Lords, I thank the Minister for her introduction of this SI. As she said, last December the Minister for Women and Equalities, Kemi Badenoch MP, announced that she was planning to update the approved list of countries and territories and remove countries that do not require a medical diagnosis in order to gain legal gender recognition. Her statement was based on a belief that checks and balances and a medical diagnosis are required. There is no evidence of higher crime rates or higher risks to women in those jurisdictions which use self-declaration of gender, so Minister Badenoch’s belief is unsupported by the evidence.

According to the Government’s statistics, fewer than 50 gender recognition certifications were granted through the overseas path in 2022-23 and the average number granted each year in the period from 2009 to 2020 was approximately 17. There is no breakdown of the countries where the original legal gender recognition was granted and there is no data about whether any of the individuals who gained legal gender recognition in the UK using this route have been prosecuted or convicted of any criminal offence. The actual impact of removing various countries is minimal according to the number of GRCs issued, but it may have important repercussions for those who are currently eligible but will not be under this proposed order, and there is no evidence that these individuals should have their current right removed. There is no reason to do so.

The impact of these proposals is unknown, due to the lack of statistics around the countries of origin and crime, but we should not assume that it is negligible. The Council of Europe’s Resolution 2048, which was passed in 2015, says that states should

“develop quick, transparent and accessible procedures, based on self-determination, for changing the name and registered sex of transgender people on birth certificates, identity cards, passports, educational certificates and other similar documents; make these procedures available for all people who seek to use them, irrespective of age, medical status, financial situation or police record”.

The UK remains a member of the Council of Europe, which is not the same organisation as the European Union.

As the noble Baroness, Lady Thornton, said, Germany remains on the list of approved countries despite introducing legal gender recognition by self-declaration in August 2023. Ireland is not on the current list, and it is not on the proposed list. It is proposed to remove recognition by parts of Australia, the entirety of New Zealand, certain states in the USA and lots of European Union countries. India and China have been added. India allows hijra to be recognised as a third gender, as well as allowing transition between male and female. It places surgical requirements for recognition as male or female, but the recognition is granted by a district magistrate. However, very few people are able to access the law due to difficulties in getting appropriate healthcare and fighting discrimination. In short, there is no consistency in the application process for the proposed countries.

However, there is one thing in common: they do not follow either the UN’s or the Council of Europe’s recommendations—that is the only thing. We are getting to the real reason why this Government, and Minister Badenoch in particular, chose to do this. This is the Government who could not find time to ban conversion therapy and the harm that that does to our community, and this is the Government who are seeking to remove a lot of protections from the LGBT community. Yet they found time to do this, which is likely to affect 20 people at most—people for whom there is absolutely no evidence that they pose any threat to anybody at all.

This is part of this Government’s ongoing war on human rights and the protections that human rights afford to minorities. It is part of their ongoing campaign to destroy human rights and the organisations set up to protect the rights of people who are, and should continue to be, protected under equalities legislation. The message from this legislation to the LGBT community is clear: you are no longer safe while this Government are in office. It is high time that they should go.