A transgender group has called on the Gillard Government to move on a promised review of Australian laws to improve the rights of transgender people.

The request follows a recent German Constitutional Court ruling that a German law, which forces transgender people to undergo surgery or sterilisation to determine their official gender status, is unconstitutional.

TransGender Victoria spokesperson Sally Goldner said the German court decision is an important step forward and Australia should take heed.

“The German decision sets a great precedent and morale boost for trans people worldwide,” Goldner told the Star Observer.

Although Australian state and territory laws differ when it comes to determining a person’s legal sex on their birth certificate, surgery is still used as the main determiner for a change to official sex status.

Last year, two trans men in Western Australia lost the right to be considered legally male, after an initial court decision giving them the go-ahead was contested by the state’s Attorney-General’s office and overturned.

The ruling was challenged because the WA Government argued the men still possessed their female reproductive organs and could potentially bear children.

The two are now set to appeal the decision in the High Court.

“I think the German court ruling is spot on to say sterilisation or sex affirmation surgery is not on and we’d argue, in terms of trans … some degree of permanency of self-affirmed identity of who you are … rather than a strictly surgery-based model,” Goldner said.

In 2009 the Australian Human Rights Commission released the Sex Files report which called for the definition of sex affirmation to be broadened so surgery is not the only criterion for a change in legal sex.

The report also called for a relaxing in evidence needed for legal recognition, recommended better information on the processes and criteria for legal recognition of sex be made available, and said, where possible, sex and gender should be removed from government documents.

“The Australian Government, in conjunction with the states and territories, needs to move urgently on Sex Files and copy that German decision,” Goldner said.

“Before last year’s federal election there was supposed to be a committee doing an audit of federal laws, which seemed reasonable but there’s been no movement on that since the election.”

At the National LGBTI Health Alliance’s Health in Difference conference last year, parliamentary secretary for social inclusion Senator Ursula Stephens said the federal Attorney-General’s office would establish a working group to respond to the recommendations.

The Attorney-General’s office has not yet responded to a Star Observer enquiry about whether the working group has, in fact, been established.

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