Law reform body finds Tasmania's transgender laws working well, recommends changes to stop non-consensual surgery

The Tasmanian Law Reform Commission has recommended that forcing an intersex person to have

Other states are being urged to follow Tasmania's lead to give parents the option of leaving gender off their baby's birth certificate.

Other states are being urged to follow Tasmania's lead to give parents the option of leaving gender off their baby's birth certificate. Source: AAP

Tasmania’s peak law reform body has found new laws allowing people to change gender on their birth certificate without gender reassignment surgery are working well, but has recommended new laws on medical procedures. 

The Tasmanian Law Reform Commission (TLRI) was tasked with reviewing the laws, which also make it optional for parents to register a gender on birth certificates, after the Liberal Government warned they were poorly drafted and could have unintended consequences. 

The laws passed in late April 2019 against the will of the government after the Speaker Sue Hickey joined with Labor and the Greens to back them. 


Since the laws came into effect in September, 63 Tasmanians applied to change their gender on existing birth certificates and 743 people applyied for a birth certificate with no gender, according to Tasmania’s Justice Department.

After public and stakeholder consultation, the TLRI found there were no significant unintended consequences and the laws had made it easier for transgender and intersex people to get official documentation that reflects their gender identity. 

"These benefits have not come at a cost for most other Tasmanians," researcher Dylan Richards said.

"We hope the report will provide clarity for other Australian states that are considering following Tasmania's lead towards law that supports human rights for diverse gender identities."

The report noted the reforms are "consistent with human rights and international practice for identification to reflect gender identity, rather than birth sex." 

Anna Brown, CEO of Equality Australia, welcomed the institute's findings. 

"I think it's a really welcomed affirmation," she told SBS News. 

"Having an ID document that reflects trans and gender-diverse people and how they live, it means they can be treated with the respect and the dignity they deserve... it benefits mental health and reduces the risk of discrimination and disadvantage." 

The report, released on Monday, also found the laws reduced discrimination. 

“[The amendments achieve] the objective of reducing discrimination and trauma experienced by intersex and gender diverse Tasmanians by making it easier to obtain identification documents that accords with their gender identity."

Equality Tasmania spokesperson, Charlie Burton, said the laws have made the lives of the LGBTIQ+ community more positive. 

"Tasmania's world-leading reforms have been given a legal tick of approval and we urge other states to follow our lead."

Compensation for surgery without consent

In response to medical and psychological evidence and experiences shared by interex and gender diverse people and their families, the institute has also recommended further changes to stop adults changing the sex of a child without consent. 

The institute identified this as a separate and controversial issue from gender identity.

The TLRI has recommended that the Tasmania government make non-consensual surgical treatments intending to change the sex of a child a criminal offence and makes it easier for intersex people to obtain compensation for harms suffered as a result of non-consensual surgical treatment.

"We found that surgical interventions on intersex children can have significant long-term consequences that last into adulthood," Mr Richards said.

"Given the ongoing concern from the intersex community about this kind of surgery, we recommend stronger, clearer guidance around consent to medical treatment."

Equality Australia CEO Anna Brown.
Equality Australia CEO Anna Brown. Source: AAP

Ms Brown said scenarios where adults decide surgical treatment for a minor unless there was "a need for medical intervention" was "abhorrent". 

"It's really important that intersex people are empowered to make decisions about what happens to their body and informed consent is provided for all medical procedures unless there is an urgent need for medical intervention at a young age," she said.

“We hope that other states and territories develop laws and policies that support the autonomy of trans, gender diverse and intersex people, so that intersex children are not subjected to so-called ‘normalising’ surgeries without free and informed consent, and trans people are able to access ID documents that reflect who they are without facing invasive or intrusive medical procedures." 

Mr Richards also emphasised the importance of protecting the rights and interests of transgender young people.

“We heard from young transgender adults about the distress caused by lengthy delays before receiving medical treatment or conflicting advice they received from doctors,” he said.

“Members of the transgender community will also benefit from improved clarity around consent to medical treatment.”

Other recommendations from the institute included that the government adds an “unspecified” birth registration option. 

4 min read
Published 22 June 2020 at 5:25pm
By Brooke Fryer
Source: SBS