The choice of a referendum on same-sex marriage November 25, 2013Posted by Tomboktu in Bunreacht na hÉireann, Inequality, LGBT.
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The cabinet has decided to hold a referendum in 2015 to lift the ban on same-sex marriage.
Over on Human Rights in Ireland, Fiona de Londras raises two interesting questions that deserve attention:
- why are we having a referendum in the first place? and
- what is the personal and social cost of a referendum?
de Londras, formerly of UCD Law School and now at Durham University, argues that it is not certain that a referendum is needed. Instead of going straight to a referendum to amend the constitution, she suggests an alternative route that might avoid a referendum. That route is:
(1) pass an Act to that repeals section 2(2)(e) of the Civil Registration Act 2004;
(2) have that Act referred to the Supreme Court.
Section 2(2) of the civil Registration Act names five impediments to a legal marriage, listed (a) to (e); item (e) is “both parties are of the same sex“.
The President has the power under Article 26 to refer a Bill that has been passed by the Oireachtas to the Supreme Court to test its constitutionality. That process is time-bound, and would therefore produce a result quickly. If the Supreme Court finds that Bill to delete section 2(2)(e) is constitutional, the ban on same-sex marriage would have been lifted without a referendum. If, on the other hand, the Supreme Court rules against the amendment to the Act, then the proposal to amend the Constitution it can proceed. However, it is not necessary to go directly to a constitutional amendment.
Her second point is why that route whould be preferred.
Referenda in Ireland are divisive things; this is, perhaps, in their nature, and divisiveness in social discourse is not something to shy away from unnecessarily. However, that divisiveness is also not cost-free, and particularly not for the people whose rights and capacity to ‘belong’ within social institutions are being debated. There will be a social cost to this referendum. LGB people in Ireland will have to debate with neighbours and family members and try to convince them to acknowledge us as equal citizens in our own country. We will see, hear and read claims that we are somehow not deserving of the institutional, legal and social recognitions that come with the right to access marriage.
That will be harmful. The harms will vary; it may harm me by simply being hurtful, but what harm might it do to the mid-fifties farmer who never had the confidence to come out, or the person subjected to homophobic bullying in the workplace, or the 14-year old who thinks she might be lesbian? People are resilient, and will bear this harm I’m sure. Indeed, the harm will, I imagine, be lessened should the referendum succeed. But this does not mean that it will not exist.
de Londras’s concern is not theoretical. An acquaintance of mine commented last week that she, her partner and their two sons will not be answering the call from lgb organisations for families to participate in the campaign:
Full marriage really affect my family more than most, but I have no intention of making my wife or children the poster people for it.
Awkward question on trans rights. November 18, 2013Posted by Tomboktu in Gender Issues, Human Rights, Inequality, LGBT Rights.
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The government was asked last week to explain what it is doing to recognise transgendered people’s rights. The UN Human Rights Committee (HRC) included a question on the issue to the State in its list of issues it wants Ireland to explain at the periodoc review next year of Ireland’s obligations under the International Convenant on Civil and Political Rights.
It is now six years since the High Court found that Irish law breaches European human rights standards on the right of a transgender person to obtain a birth certificate in their true gender. That was followed by a government decision to set up an advisory group — consisting of civil servants — to prepare a report, which was published in July 2011. (My post on that is here.)
It took a further two years to produce the Heads of Bill, in July 2013.
The HRC has asked the government to provide “detailed information on the steps taken to issue birth certificates to transgendered persons” (Link to Word document here). The government will have plenty of “outputs” to report to the Human Rights Committee:
- the establishment of the advisory group,
- publication of its report,
- decision of cabinet on the heads of bill,
- publication of heads of bill, and
- discussion of them by the Oireachtas Committee on Education and Social Protection.
It would not surprise me to see the Oireachtas Committee put under some backroom pressure to get a report of its hearings out so that there is another “output” by the time the HRC holds its hearings.
I hope the HRC puts the Irish officials who appear before it under close scrutiny about a new clause it introduced between the publication of a the report of the advisory committee and the publication of the heads of bill. That provision would allow sporting organisations to prohibit trans people from participating in some acivities. Now, there are pros and cons in such a provision, but their introduction into the heads of bill stinks. It has nothing to do with the issuing of a new birth certificate and the processes and requirements for that, and lies well outside the expertise of the Department of Social Protection. It amounts to a change in anti-discrimination law, although is not framed as such. Tellingly, the Department of Social Protection introduced a new proposal to allow discrimination in one area because of a person’s gender identity or the fact that they are transgendered without addressing the need for proposals to prohibit discrimination in other areas. I would not be surprised if it were dropped during the passage of the bill as a “concession” to trans people while leaving the core proposals that are hurtful and demonstrate a lack of any understanding by the drafters of the human cost of what they say should be enacted into law.
The second question that the HRC has asked will provide not so much an opportunity as a need for weasling by the State. The HRC asks “how transgender organizations have been included in such process, including in relation to the Gender Recognition Bill”. No doubt, the government will tell the Human Rights Committee that TENI (Transgender Equality Network Ireland) made a submission to the advisory group which was considered in preparing the final report, and has appeared before the Oireachtas to speak about the issue a number of times. They will probably also refer to the “engagement” with trans organisations by the Minister when she spoke at the Transgender Europe conference in Dublin in 2012.
I expect that the Department’s reply to the HRC will not record that
- the advisory committee did not include a single representative of trans people,
- the report and heads of bill do not comply with European human rights standard and
- the Minister has refused to meet TENI herself.
I hope the officials are called to account on that and squirm while explaining their approach.
* — ** — ** — ** — ** — ** — ** — *
TENI’s submission to the Human Rights Committee sets out in stark terms why action is needed, and needed urgently, and why the Government’s leisurely pace is itself an offence.
(a) Access to services: Formal, legal recognition of one’s identity – by the issuance of an accurate and correct birth certificate – is the gateway for enjoying numerous foundational rights in Ireland. Irish transgender persons who, on the basis of their expressed gender identity, seek to avail of important public services are frequently denied access because the Irish state only recognises the sex and identity assigned to them at birth. In Ireland, obtaining, inter alia, social security, Personal Public Service Numbers and marriage certificates all require the presentation of a birth certificate. The failure of the Irish state to issue new birth certificates to transgender persons means that, in order to access these foundational services, transgender people must present an official document stating that they are somebody other than their true self. Transgender people in Ireland cannot access services on the basis of their self-identified gender, even if they have lived in that gender for the greater part of their life.
The current legal situation creates an impossible and unfair choice for Irish transgender persons: the right to self-determination and dignity, or economic survival. Some transgender individuals ultimately decide to forgo their most basic rights because of the impossibility of presenting in a gender identity not their own. Others choose to access services on the basis of their birth-assigned identity and frequently confront widespread bigotry and discrimination.
(b) Restrictions on travel: The failure of the Irish state to issue new birth certificates restricts the ability of transgender people to travel. In this regard, journeys aboard can be particularly challenging. The 2008 Passports Act gives a transgender person the right to apply for a passport with their correct gender marker. However, the fact that a person’s birth certificate will not match the passport they are requesting means that issuing passports has, despite the existence of a clear legal right, become inconsistent and arbitrary. TENI has worked with people who have had difficulty obtaining a new passport. A transgender male who attempted to access a new passport but was told that not enough time had passed since his transition to apply for a passport with the male gender marker. When the individual tried to reapply with a female gender marker, he was told that he would need to provide “proof of use” of his female gender marker. In addition, many trans people are forced to pay the cost of a ten-year passport in order to obtain a two-year passport.
(c) Discrimination by state and non-state actors: Lack of recognition legitimises discrimination. Examples of prejudice which transgender persons experience from state actors include inappropriate and degrading questions, refusals to respect expressed gender identity and wilful misunderstanding. A transgender woman told TENI how, while attending a community care clinic, a member of staff had insisted upon loudly and publically calling her by her former male name. The individual recalled how “the room was packed and the laughing and comments were unbearable.” One woman received a phone call from Social Welfare querying her change of name and gender. She explained her transition, and the government agent laughed, said ‘You’ll never be a woman!’ and then hung up. (TENI has heard several similar accounts from people across Ireland.) An Irish transgender woman returning from abroad recalled how her letters to update her Irish bank account and Social Welfare with her change of gender and name were ignored: “The Social Welfare Department sent me a tax certificate in my old male name and informed my new employer of the details.”
(d) Detrimental effect on young people: The failure to issue a new birth certificate may have an especially negative impact on transgender youth. Transgender youth are particularly vulnerable to peer bullying. The perpetuation of young transgender persons’ exclusion through the failure to legally recognise their gender identity reinforces the stress and isolation which Irish transgender youth often feel. TENI has documented the story of a young transgender male who is surrounded by supportive family and friends. However, he is currently required to wear a skirt into school each day because his Principal does not recognise his gender identity.
The refusal to issue new birth certificates also creates significant difficulties for transgender students in applying for university in Ireland. Transgender people regularly miss out on college placements, as the Central Applications Office (CAO), the body responsible for assigning university places in Ireland, is unable to cope with transgender identities. One student transitioned and subsequently decided to re-sit his Leaving Certificate Exam (Ireland’s end-of-secondary-level-education national exam). He gained the required grades for his chosen course of study. The grade the student achieved for English in his first examination results should have been carried over and added to his results the second time he sat the exam. However, the CAO noted the discrepancy in name and gender and assumed an error had been made. In such cases, the CAO office dismisses the application without query. The young man missed out on his college place. TENI has heard of several such cases.
The Government’s Draft Heads of Bill for gender recognition excludes people under the age of 18 from applying for the rights contained within. This is in conflict with the recently passed Children’s Referendum, where the Irish people voted to amend Article 42A of the Constitution to read: “The State recognises and affirms the natural and imprescriptible rights of all children and shall, as far as practicable, by its laws protect and vindicate those rights.”
The Careless State April 5, 2013Posted by doctorfive in Inequality.
The Rise of Neoliberalism and its Impact on Inequality.
GCN is 25 years old March 3, 2013Posted by Tomboktu in Community, Gay Community News, Gender Issues, History, Human Rights, Inequality, LGBT Rights, media, Media and Journalism.
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Rights and charity January 16, 2013Posted by doctorfive in Inequality.
Tags: inequality, Oireachtas
Just wanted to highlight this from December.
I think it speaks for itself in more ways then one but here’s the transcript
I remember a time in this House when I was trying to introduce legislation for people with disabilities and subjected to a most horrendous campaign outside Leinster House driven, conceived and led by the Labour Party.
It convinced people that what people with disabilities were entitled to were absolute rights, regardless of the state of the finances of the country, something that did not apply in any other country and which by definition could not apply in any other country. The campaign was led by people such as Mrs. Finlay and her husband who are closely associated with the Labour Party. I tell Deputy Dominic Hannigan and the Minister of State, Deputy Kathleen Lynch, it is a long way from seeking absolute rights, regardless of the state of the finances of the country, to slashing and cutting the inadequate provision made.
“I do not have to prove that I am ‘trans enough’ for anyone” December 7, 2012Posted by Tomboktu in Crazed nonsense..., Human Rights, Inequality, Irish Politics, Justice, LGBT Rights.
While the country was getting ready for the budget on Wednesday, elsewhere in the Leinster House complex, an Oireachtas committee took evidence on the experience and legal situation of trans people in Ireland.
All of it is worth watching, but I was particularly moved by the evidence of Darrn matthews, from 8:30 into the film:
Hi. My name is Darrin Matthews. I am a board member of TENI and also run he Cork Peer Trans Support Group.
I am a transgender man.
I had a woman from the Disability Allowance Office ring me and she wanted to know why my name had changed from a female name to a male name, and when I told her it was because I was transgender, she laughed at me and hung up the phone.
When I go out and I get asked for my passport as identification to get in, I sometimes get turned away because my gender marker still says “F” and I have both my birth certificate name and my current name Darrin printed.
Everybody has a right to a private life. I would just like that my right would be recognized. Issuing new birth certificates and can easily do this and prevent embarrassment and harassment and potentially dangerous situations.
My experience of being transgender doesn’t just affect me, it also affects my family. I have an amazingly supportive and loving family. My mother put herself into almost €12,000 worth of debt so she could send me to a private school because I was bullied for 2 years in my state school. My mother took out a loan to send me to a school where I could be called Darrin, not wear a girl’s uniform and be happy and every member of staff and every student called me Darrin instead of derogatory and cruel names.
I have many friends who are straight, gay and transgender. In this day and age if a gay friend of mine come to me and told me they had gotten their official diagnosis of “homosexual”, I would be shocked and appalled. Nineteen years ago homosexuality was decriminalized and people now cannot imagine a time when homosexuality was illegal. Most people don’t know that transgender people must be diagnosed with a psychiatric illness to access treatment in this country because this is such an inconceivable and ridiculous notion and is discriminatory in its nature.
I do not feel that because I was born in the wrong body that that automatically means I have a mental illness. There is still stigmatization attached to having a mental health issue in this country and to force a psychiatric condition onto another human being can have detrimental effects on a person’s self-image and self-esteem.
When a couple applies for a civil partnership, they are not asked for their gay diagnosis to prove their homosexuality. I had to prove to many people I was happier as the man I should have always been, to my mother, my siblings, to my friends. And I had to prove that I had a psychiatric illness. But I should not have to prove anything to a complete stranger and seek their acceptance. I do not have to prove that I am ‘trans enough’ for anyone.
My mother once asked if I was sure, and if I was really sure that being Darrin was what I wanted. When I told her I couldn’t go go back and be happy, she just said to me ‘Well then we can only go forward, my son’.
I always knew transitioning would never be easy but please don’t make it any harder than it already is. All I want is to be treated as an equal. To be treated with respect and dignity as much as a non-transgender person would be. Nothing more and nothing less. Thank you.
Declaration of the 4th European Transgender Council September 9, 2012Posted by Tomboktu in Gender Issues, Human Rights, Inequality, Ireland, LGBT Rights.
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I received this in an email today.
Declaration of the 4th European Transgender Council on transphobic and racist violence and harassment, targeted at three Council participants
We the participants and organizers of this 4th European Transgender Council condemn the transphobic attack directed towards three participants of our Council in Dublin – two of the newly elected steering committee members and a Council of Europe official. Two years ago delegates were attacked during the 3rd European Transgender Council in Malmö (Sweden). We are shocked and deeply concerned that this type of violence has been repeated in Ireland. Once again it has been proven that no space is a safe space for trans people.
On Saturday night, 8th September 2012, a group of ten delegates were on their way to the Council’s social events in the Temple Bar District. Two persons, unknown to them, targeted our Turkish Steering Committee member, Kemal Ördek, and physically and verbally attacked hir and hirs colleague Laura LePrince from France. Lauri Sivonen, Advisor to the Commissioner for Human Rights of the Council of Europe, intervened to protect the delegates and the attackers spat in his face before leaving the scene. Due to the fact that their first target was one of our Turkish delegates, we assume that the attack was not only based on trans- and homophobia, but as well on racism and xenophobia.
Lauri Sivonen, accompanied by a representative of TENI, reported the incident on Saturday night to An Garda Síochána. Kemal Ördek and Laura LePrince will give a report at the garda station as well. The gardai are expected to ensure that the delegates will have a chance to report in a safer space with respect to their gender identity and expression. TGEU has been assured that TENI will observe and follow up on the process.
In view of the above,
We require An Garda Síochána to
Investigate this case quickly, properly and without any trans-, homo- or xenophobic or racist prejudice. Implement a trans-inclusive monitoring system that will effectively record transphobic incidences. Have LGBT trained liaison officers on duty 24 hours. Collaborate with TENI to make Dublin and Ireland a safer space for trans people.
We demand that the State of Ireland
Ensure that gender identity and gender expression are explicitly covered by equality legislation and work to develop hate crime legislation that protects all trans people. Collaborate with Irish trans organizations and support their work to make Ireland a country that does not tolerate bigotry, discrimination or violence against trans people. Raise awareness that trans people’s equality and human rights must always be respected thus making sure that such incidents cease to happen. Protect trans people’s private life through gender recognition legislation that fully respect human rights according to the Commissioner for Human Rights of the Council of Europe’s Recommendations and the Yogyakarta Principles.
Dublin, 9th September 2012.
What should be the Garda priorities? July 4, 2012Posted by Tomboktu in Crime, Inequality, Justice, Society.
An Garda Síochána is conducting a public consultation as part of its preparation of a three-year strategy for 2013–2015. Have a look at how they frame the discussion with the first question in the consultation [the Gardaí use drop-down boxes with the numbers for ranking, but they don't transalte to CLR's website]:
An Garda Síochána has limited resources and is faced with a wide range of demands. In your opinion, what priority should An Garda Síochána give to the following policing areas? (Rank in order of priority – 1 being most important and 10 being least important. Each number can only be used once.)
Drugs (including importing, selling and taking drugs) Public Order (for example, tackling drunkenness or rowdiness as well as anti-social behaviour) Hate crimes (for example, targeting someone based on their race or sexuality) Ensuring road safety (for example, preventing serious and fatal collisions, young people racing around in car etc) Violent crimes (such as assaults rape, sexual assaults, and domestic violence) Property crime (such as burglaries, thefts and robberies) Criminal damage (for example, damage against your property, vehicle or graffiti) Fraud (for example, computer and telephone scams or someone else using your identity without your knowledge) Financial crimes committed by those working in businesses and large corporations. Human Trafficking (for purposes of labour or sexual exploitation)
Now, even leaving aside the question of precisely how the responses to a public consultation will affect the choices the Gardaí make for priority areas (if, oh, 400,000 responses tell them they should make hate crimes based on race or sexuality the first priority, and the next highest priority is in the 100s of responses, will that put it to the top of the list?), isn’t that opening question just weird?
Financial crimes presented as a separate category from fraud. And young people racing around in car — is it different when middle-aged people do it? All of the compenents of the drug trade lumped together without distinguishing those with power in the trade from those without. Anti-social behaviour — when it is not a deliberate political action — would seem to me to always be wrong, but drunkeness — if I don’t get rowdy or drive a vehicle — might not be, but the Gardaí have put them in the same category.
I would like to know how they rank crimes where there are large numbers of potential and articulate “direct” victims (public order and property crime, for example) against crimes where the victims may indirect (the gardaí’s ‘financial crimes’) or smaller in number (hate crimes) or vulnerable (trafficking). And how do you rank any of the crime categories against the more-than-just-crime issue of road safety?
I live in an area where the Chief Superintendent has gone beyond the legal requirements for county-based Garda Joint Policing Committees and holds quarterly meetings with residents’ associations and other local community groups in each of the areas covered by the individual stations across the Division. And he takes seriously the two questions of listening to concerns raised and reporting back. [Complaints about dangerous parking outside seven schools in the school rush-hours resulted in this response at the following meeting: They had checked the issue at all schools, and in two cases they agreed that the situation was dangerous, but in the others, just an inconvenience for a short period. They met the two school principals, and a letter went out to all parents at the two schools. A week later, some garda shifts were changed to have officers in place at both rush hours -- that week, the gardaí spoke to drivers who tried to looked like they intended to park dangerously, told them to move on, and reminded the parents of the letter. The following week, the officers started issuing tickets, and 70 were issued in a month.]
At one of the meetings last year, the Superintendent presented statistics on garda activity in the station’s area. Among the data on speeding traps set up, speeding offences detected, drunk and disorderly outside pubs, burlaries, damage to property, etc. were two tables on drugs operations. One operation was implemented by the local drugs squad, and targeted local dealers. The other was an operation implemented by ‘beat’ and community gardaí and was targetted at the buyers. Up went a table showing the number of stops and searches in public spaces in the hunt to catch users with stock for their own use. That number over a year was in the high hundreds — I think it was between 700 and 800. But the total number of detections was in two digits. I made myself unpopular with a pair of questions: First, was it an effective use of resurces to stop and search so many people with so little crime detected for it? Second, what mechanisms did they have to ensure that the stops and searches did not work to alienating young men from the disadvantaged estates in the station’s area?
The current Garda national questionnaire does provide space to expalin your views, although some of the options you get appear to depend on the choices you make in previous questions. It would seem to be a bit difficult, but possible, to use the survey to present the kind of conerns I raised at the meeting. But I am minded to ignore some of the questions and say what I want to say anyway.
And in fairness, it is refreshing to get the opportunity to say that financial crimes need a bit more profile in the Gardaí’s work, although I am deeply uncomfortable having to rank that ahead or behind concerns like human trafficking or hate crimes.
If you would like to add your views, mosey on over to http://www.garda.ie/Controller.aspx?Page=9358
A peculiar tax break May 2, 2012Posted by Tomboktu in Crazed nonsense..., Inequality, Taxation Policy.
The May issue of Alive! was delivered to my house today. I am not happy to see that it is a registered charity. They advertise the fact because
- If you pay PAYE and your total donation to Alive! was €250 or more in 2011 we can reclaim your tax.
Please ask us for a for or Tel 01 4048187 for more info.
- If you are self-assessed or a company and your donation to Aive! was €250 or more in 2011 you can clain tax releief on your donation.
How can an organisation that is so overtly political have been granted charitable status?