A feminist group has accused Victoria’s Labor government of introducing its proposed sex-change bill without adequate community consultation, saying the potential impact on women is significant and largely misunderstood.  The recently formed Victorian Women’s Guild wants to highlight concerns over the government’s Births, Deaths, and Marriages Registration Amendment Bill, which, if ratified, will allow transgender individuals to alter their sex on birth certificates without having to undergo sex reassignment surgery.  The response comes as Coalition MPs seek to oppose the bill, which is now in the Upper House, after opposition legal affairs spokesman Ed O’Donohue flagged concerns about the impact of the reform on identifying sex offenders and other prisoners.

A recent media storm around the case of Jessica Yaniv, a Canadian trans woman who has launched more than a dozen human rights complaints against beauticians who declined to wax her biologically male genitalia, which she retains, is also understood to have been factored into its stance.  The Coalition defeated a similar bill in 2016.  The latest bill, introduced to parliament in June, removes the requirement for an individual to have had surgical intervention in order to “self-nominate” on their birth certificate as male or female or “any other gender diverse or non-binary descriptor”.

According to the guild, the legislation has potential impacts for women’s safety, medical care and sport.  One of its biggest concerns is women will no longer have a right to the privacy of female only spaces as self-identified trans women, including those who remain biologically male, would by law be entitled to access.  The group has been labelled “transphobic” by a group of University of Melbourne students petitioning the university to cancel the guild’s forum on the issue.  The Future of Sex-Based Rights event, featuring philosopher Holly Lawford-Smith and sports lawyer Hayden Opie, “lends both legitimacy and a platform to discrimination against trans¬gender and gender nonconforming people”, the group said in a letter to vice-chancellor Duncan Maskell.

Guild spokeswoman Nina Vallins said while the Yaniv case had captured the public’s attention, there were wide-ranging consequences of the proposed bill, particularly for already vulnerable women such as domestic violence survivors and prisoners.  “These women have a right to safe women only spaces.  It would be unfair on these women who have been victims of male violence to have male people, or to have to worry about male people, in these spaces,” the lawyer said.  “We believe we can look for solutions where people are able to live their lives in a way that they feel accepted by society, but in a way that also respects women.”

Melbourne Law School sports law specialist Mr Opie, said the debate around trans rights versus women’s rights to compete in sport on a level playing field posed challenging questions, but debating the issue did not make a person “transphobic”.  “It’s a shame what we’ve seen so far is a confrontation rather than a conversation,” he said. Ms Vallins said she was also concerned by the lack of consultation on the bill, with the guild’s attempts to discuss concerns with the Attorney-General Jill Hennessy being ignored.  Ms Hennessy, who said the bill was developed in consultation with LGBTI communities, declined to answer questions on how widely the government had consulted on the bill.

Source: Compiled by APN from media reports

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