Australia

Victorian women’s group cautions against birth certificate reforms

The right of Victorians to choose the sex listed on their birth certificates has prompted debate both within and outside the state parliament. Source: iStockphoto

With Victorian MPs weighing up changes to legislation surrounding gender and birth certificates, one women's group fears basic sex-based rights could become a thing of the past.

A feminist group is flagging concerns with a proposal to allow Victorians to choose the sex listed on their birth certificate.

The legislative assembly is considering a bill which will open up the right to select male, female or a sex descriptor of the individual’s own choosing, provided they have called the state home for at least 12 months.

Advocates say it will make a world of difference for transgender and non-binary Victorians who until now have been required to undergo costly sex affirming surgery before they are allowed to alter their recorded gender.

Attorney-General Jill Hennessy has argued the matter comes down to a basic choice, claiming everyone should have the right to hold “a birth certificate that reflects their true identity”.

Attorney-General Jill Hennessy believes the current pre-requisites send the wrong message to trans and gender diverse Victorians.
Attorney-General Jill Hennessy believes the current pre-requisites send the wrong message to trans and gender diverse Victorians.
AAP

Similar legislation has already been passed in Tasmania, but the Victorian Women’s Guild argues the move could jeopardise inherent sex-based rights.

VWG spokesperson Nina Vallins has told SBS News there is some concern for the protection of women and girls, echoing the Coalition’s ongoing opposition.

“Places where women are particularly vulnerable and where we normally have protections in place so that women who may be victims of male violence have extra safeguards there, places like prisons or domestic violence shelters (are a concern)," she said.

"At the moment you can exclude male persons from those spaces, but if a male person has changed their recorded sex to F or to something else, then you no longer have the legal grounds from which to exclude them from those spaces.”

“One of the other major areas is sport. At the moment you can exclude people on the grounds of strength, stamina and physique from the competition … this bill really nullifies that ability to make those discriminations,” she said.

Labor attempted to greenlight similar legislation in 2016 - but that effort was cut short by one vote. The most recent move is expected to receive the thumbs up but will rely on the support of The Greens, the Reason Party and the Animal Justice Party.

Reason MP Fiona Patten has already indicated she will not be putting forward any amendments to the Births, Deaths and Marriages Registration Amendment Bill.

Reason MP Fiona Patten is expected to back the bill without any amendments.
Reason MP Fiona Patten is expected to back the bill without any amendments.
AAP

It’s understood the minor parties have not held talks with the VWG, despite the organisation’s efforts to lift debate before the bill is considered.

The VWG recently hosted a discussion at the University of Melbourne which was condemned by protesters who argued the feminist group’s actions created an unsafe environment on campus.

Ms Vallins said any such claim is untrue and more needs to be done to understand the complexity of the bill.

“We support the right to free speech. We had people attend the talk who do not agree with us and that’s fine. I don’t think the protesters claim … is a legitimate one and their demand that the university cancel the talk is antithetical to good process.”

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