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Govt to roll out changes making it easier to change sex on birth certificate

The Government has today announced it will be taking steps to make it easier for people to change the sex recorded on their birth certificates.

Source: 1 NEWS

Minister of Internal Affairs Jan Tinetti said the Government understands the importance of self-identification for transgender, non-binary and intersex Kiwis.

It comes as the Government today released its response to 38 recommendations made by a working group that had been investigating the process.

The recommendations the Government had indicated it would be proceeding with were: 

  • Providing free face-to-face or call centre services to guide people through each step of the process to altering their birth certificate
  • Extending the requirements for DHBs to retain paediatric care records, so that children’s records are kept indefinitely to enable intersex people to access their full medical history. The Government said it would identify what the status quo is, then develop further guidance 
  • Develop a rainbow-inclusive, trans-inclusive and affirming language guide 
  • Simplify the application form to confirm birth certificate details 
  • Work with schools to recognise a student’s gender in the records it holds
  • Fund rainbow support organisation InsideOUT to develop resources for schools on inclusivity

Of the 38 proposals, the Government had indicated it would not be proceeding with six.

The rejected recommendations include fully funding specific legal representation for people wanting a change and providing gender-affirming healthcare for free.

The Government said legal aid was already available for people facing hardship, and gender-affirming healthcare services like hormone treatment and surgical interventions were available through DHBs.

The Working Group for Reducing Barriers to Changing Registered Sex had been established to find practical ways to improve the experience of people seeking a change of the sex recorded on their birth certificate.

“The findings of the Working Group demonstrated the costs and complexities in changing the sex marker on a birth certificate, and showed why many people find it too difficult,” Tinetti said.

“Currently, people can self-identify their gender on the driver’s licence or passport - but to change their sex on a birth certificate, they need to go to the Family Court for a declaration and provide medical evidence as part of this process.”

She said things like waiving application fees associated with the process had made “a real difference” that could save someone up to $95.

Tinetti said alongside implementing the recommendations of the Working Group report, the Government is progressing work on the Births, Deaths, Marriages, and Relationships Registration Bill.

The bill will allow people to self-identify their sex on their birth certificate without going to the Family Court. They will instead be able to apply online as they currently do for other identity documents, like driver’s licences and passports.

Tinetti said the Government hoped to pass the bill by the end of the year.

“I understand the frustrations from communities that have been fighting for these changes since 2007, and I am urgently progressing work to enable the Cabinet decisions required to get the bill moving.”

The most recent attempt at change came in 2019, when the then-Minister for Internal Affairs Tracey Martin put forward a bill that would have made it easier for transgender people to change the sex on their birth certificates.

The bill aimed to allow people to avoid lengthy waits to change their birth certificate by no longer requiring they apply to the Family Court for the change. The bill would have also removed the requirement for someone to provide medical proof they had changed their physical attributes.

But the bill was deferred. Martin cited poor public consultation and legal concerns as the reasons for it.

Martin’s Births, Deaths, Marriages and Relationships Registration Bill faced strong opposition from feminist, religious and conservative groups.