Joint Committee On Human Rights Written Evidence

43.Submission from Zara Strange

  My birth was registered in England whereas my home is now in Scotland.

  I have three areas of concern that I should like the Joint Committee to address:

1.   Proceedings before a court or tribunal Section 14(4)(f)

  I work as a court-based Co-ordinator for a national charity. I am also a member of Aberdeenshire Council Children's Panel. The Scottish Children's Hearing System is an officially constituted tribunal and members are appointed by First Minister (previously by the Secretary of State for Scotland).

  Since 1997, I have been singled out to be treated differently from all other panel members in that I have only been allowed to sit on panels comprising a man, another woman and myself. This has meant that all persons involved in allocating panel members to hearings have been advised of my gender status. This has included all new and temporary staff of both Aberdeenshire Children's Panel and the Aberdeen Children's Reporters Office. I consider this to be an on going infringement of my privacy.

  I consider that paragraph 14(4)(f) is too vague and could be used to sanction disclosure of any person who works in a court or tribunal. This includes court staff, clerks, administrators, volunteers, tribunal members, jury members, police and judges. In the case of Children's Hearings, it could additionally include schoolteachers, social workers, citizen advocates, reporters.

  Section 14, as it stands, could cancel out any protection otherwise offered by the Act to people working in the justice and in the care systems. This would enable a prosecutor, a defence agent, court reporter or any other person to disclose the status of a transsexual person.

  I would suggest adding something along the lines of "the disclosure of an accused person or a pursuer or a defendant or a person required to appear before a tribunal and only when that person's pre re-registration status is necessary to determine the truth in the case before the court or tribunal".

2.   Applications within six months of commencement—Sections 2(6) and (7) and Section 19

  In 1997 I formally changed my name on all official documents, including passport and driving licence. Since that time I have had no need to use a Birth Certificate and indeed do not recollect having even seen it since 1993 when my marriage ended. Although I have repeatedly requested a replacement, I was only offered one showing a gender status and name that I swore by affidavit in front of a Justice of the Peace, that I no longer used for any purpose.

  I request that applications made within six months of commencement by persons who have lived in the acquired gender throughout a period of six years must include—

    (a)  the applicant's birth certificate with evidence concerning any changes in the name by which the applicant has been known at any time during the applicant's life, or

    (b)  a current passport

  To receive a passport showing their amended name and gender, a transsexual person is required to produce a letter from an appropriately qualified and practising doctor plus evidence of change of name; they are also required to give up any former passport. These are the same requirements for a gender recognition certificate as detailed in this White Paper.

3.   Fees—Section 4(2)

  I request that the fees for obtaining a gender recognition certificate should not be set at a figure so as to prevent transsexual people on low incomes from being able to apply. I respectfully suggest a figure between £10 and £20.

3 August 2003

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