A 36-year-old transsexual woman has lodged a sex discrimination complaint against Australia with the United Nations. Lawyers acting on behalf of the woman (known as Ms XY) lodged the complaint on November 28.
The woman, who transitioned several years ago, has undergone hormone treatment and genital reassignment surgery.
She is still married to her female partner and said she has been refused a change to her birth certificate three times by the NSW Registry of Births, Deaths and Marriages (BDM) because she will not divorce her wife.
Ms XY said she is taking her case to the UN after attempts to lodge a sex discrimination complaint with the Australian Human Rights Commission (AHRC), against the NSW Registry, failed two years ago.
The woman said she was told the complaint could not go ahead because her situation is not covered by federal anti-discrimination laws.
“I live as a woman, have a vagina, breasts and pay taxes as a woman, yet the NSW BDM insists I divorce my wife and abandon my marriage in order to change my birth certificate,” Ms XY said in a statement. “It is plainly an abuse of human rights and harassment. The UN is the only place I have to go now.”
Although Australia’s anti-discrimination laws are currently under review, gender identity is not listed in federal anti-discrimination protections. Due to Australia’s ban on same-sex marriage, married transsexuals must choose between divorcing their spouses or retaining birth certificates which ascribe them the wrong sex.
The AHRC’s Sex Files report in 2009 recommended marital status should not be a consideration when a person requests a change in legal sex.
As part of the UN’s Universal Periodic Review in 2010, Australia was asked what action it was taking to better protect sex and gender diverse citizens.
The Gillard Government earlier this year said it was considering the Sex Files recommendations, however, trans rights groups have criticised the Government for being too slow to act.Ms XY’s complaint is set to go to a UN human rights committee which will decide if Australia has breached her human rights.