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Pillay welcomes Australian decision on identity for transgender and intersex people

GENEVA (16 September 2011) – The UN High Commission for Human Rights, Navi Pillay, on Friday welcomed the Australian Government's decision to enable Australians who are transgender or intersex, or who do not wish to identify themselves as either male or female, to have their sex and gender identity properly reflected on their passports.

The option of expressing a change of gender or indeterminate gender will now be open to anyone who has had appropriate clinical treatment – and not necessarily physical treatment.

“This is something that will be welcome news for many transgender and intersex people in Australia who from now on will not be required to undergo surgery or hormonal treatment in order to be able to express their gender identity,” the High Commissioner said.

“Without official recognition of their preferred gender, transgender and intersex individuals face a wide range of practical, everyday challenges – for example, when applying for a job, opening a bank account or travelling," she added. "Making it simpler for people to obtain official documents that reflect their preferred gender will make life easier for thousands of people, in the process removing barriers that until now have prevented them from exercising their human rights on an equal footing with others."

“By its action, Australia has placed itself in the vanguard of change and has scored an important victory for human rights," Pillay said. "Increasingly, States around the world are starting to recognize the need to reflect sex and gender diversity. Other States that have taken pioneering steps in recent years to make it easier for transgender and intersex persons to obtain legal recognition of a change of gender, or to indicate a gender other than male or female, include Nepal, Portugal, the United Kingdom and Uruguay."

Pillay noted that Australia is currently engaged in a review of existing anti-discrimination legislation, with a view to consolidating and streamlining existing arrangements and removing gaps in protection from discrimination. "I encourage the authorities to ensure that this process leads to effective and robust protection for all those who suffer discrimination on grounds of their gender identity or gender expression," she said.

"I also urge other States around the world to review their own laws, policies and practices to ensure that discrimination against transgender and intersex individuals is addressed in a systematic and effective way,” the High Commissioner said.

ENDS

OHCHR Country Page – Australia: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/Countries/AsiaRegion/Pages/AUIndex.aspx

For more information or media requests, please contact spokesperson Rupert Colville (+41 22 917 9767 / rcolville@ohchr.org) or press officers Ravina Shamdasani (+ 41 22 917 9310 / rshamdasani@ohchr.org) and Xabier Celaya (+ 41 22 917 9383 / xcelaya@ohchr.org).

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