The Standing Committee of Attorneys General (SCAG) will establish a working group to consider the implications of creating an unspecified sex category for documents and records.
At a SCAG meeting the NSW Attorney General John Hatzistergos said there were people in the community who could not identify as male or female, mentioning the case of sexless activist Norrie mAy-Welby and a 2009 recommendation by the Australian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) that, “a person over the age of 18 years should be able to choose to have an unspecified sex noted on documents and records”.
“The Attorney noted that this is a very complex area of social policy with very significant legal and practical implications on a national scale,” a spokesman for Hatzistergos said.
“Given there are mutual recognition arrangements in place for birth and other identity documents if one jurisdiction was to allow unspecified to be noted on documents this would potentially impact on all jurisdictions.”
The working group will consider implications of recording an unspecified sex category on birth or gender recognition certificates in areas including marriage, aged care, hospital rooms, emergency refuges, prisons, and requirements that body searchers be carried out by members of the same sex.
The spokesman told the Star Observer the Attorneys General agreed that any reforms would need to be considered very carefully and given attention from a national perspective.
Norrie welcomed the decision to convene a working group.
“I’m glad they’ve made a commitment to proceed with this and to look at the implications — it looks like they’re serious,” Norrie said.
“My case is a symptom of a wider groundswell of people seeking similar recognition.”
Organisation Intersex International (OII) Australia president Gina Wilson welcomed the commitment to a working group, but said it was vital that a “sex-not-specified” category be open to anyone who chose it.
“OII opposes a not-specified category if it is only available to people who have physical differences,” Wilson said.
“That would be the equivalent of creating a third sex and we absolutely oppose that based on the experience in other countries where a third sex effectively operates such as Thailand and India.
“A third sex relegates people who don’t fit standard definitions of male and female into a subhuman class of people. We support the abolition of sex markers on all documentation except medical documentation where necessary, and we support everybody’s right not to specify their sex.”