The Equal Opportunities Commission (EOC) has asked that the government refrain from imposing medical requirements in a new gender recognition law, calling for a progressive model that respects the rights of transgender people.
EOC Chairperson Alfred Chan said in a statement Tuesday: “Around the world, increasing numbers of jurisdictions are moving towards a more progressive model for gender recognition. As an international city, Hong Kong should act in sync with the international trends and human rights standards.”
The remarks came after a government team tasked with drafting a new gender recognition bill ended a 10-month public consultation at the end of last month.
The EOC voiced concern over the consultation document, which it said showed a lack of commitment on the government’s part to introduce a gender recognition scheme.
The watchdog said the lack of commitment was “clearly not compliant with recommendations by many international human rights and health bodies” that such a scheme was necessary for upholding the basic rights of transgender people.
Chan said the issue at hand “should not be on whether a gender recognition scheme should be introduced in Hong Kong, but rather what kind of gender recognition scheme should be adopted.”
On Tuesday, the EOC submitted a number of recommendations to the government, urging it to observe international best practices by imposing no – or minimal – medical requirements for gender recognition purposes.
It also highlighted the global trend of depathologising transgenderism, whereby those who have a gender identity or expression that differs from their assigned sex are not considered medically unwell.
It said it had studied practices in countries such as Japan, Singapore, South Korea, Taiwan and China, which require transgender individuals to undertake sex re-assignment surgery or sterilisation. The EOC advised against adopting such models, citing the United Nations which consider them inhumane and degrading practices.
To avoid abuse of the system, the EOC suggested requiring medical practitioners to confirm the transgender person is living in their affirmed gender for a period of time, or having the transgender person declare that they intend to live permanently in their self-proclaimed gender.
The Progressive Lawyers Group also submitted recommendations to the government on Tuesday, calling for a gender recognition scheme that meets human rights standards and caters to the diverse needs of the transgender community.
The group’s convenor Craig Choy said: “In the course of establishing and implementing a gender recognition scheme in Hong Kong, we urge the administration to take into account various international human rights treaties to which Hong Kong is one of the signatories.”
The group said forcing transgender people to undergo surgery against their will could amount to torture.
It also proposed imposing no minimum age for gender recoginition. Meanwhile, whether transgender people are married or have children should not be a reason for refusing their applications, it said.
It said existing marriage laws should be amended so that if a marriage becomes a same-sex marriage – which is not legal in Hong Kong – after one of the spouses obtains gender recognition, the change should not be grounds for nullifying the marriage.
The government team – called the Inter-departmental Working Group on Gender Recognition – is chaired by the justice secretary and consists of senior officials from different departments such as the Security Bureau and the Food and Health Bureau.
Articles originally appear in Hong Kong Free Press on 4 January 2018.