Joint Committee On Human Rights Nineteenth Report

1 The Inquiry undertaken by the Joint Committee

1. The Draft Gender Recognition Bill was published in July 2003 by the Department for Constitutional Affairs. As part of the process of consultation on the Draft Bill, the Joint Committee on Human Rights was asked to undertake pre-legislative scrutiny of it. This was because its purpose is to respond to judgments of the European Court of Human Rights and the House of Lords holding that legislation in this country is incompatible with rights under the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) and the Human Rights Act 1998 in so far as it fails to give legal recognition to the acquired or reassigned sex or gender of a transsexual person.

2. In the course of our inquiry, we invited evidence from interested members of the public. We received a substantial number of submissions. They came from individuals with personal experience of the circumstances at which the Draft Bill is aimed, from organizations representing or working with them, and from professional people with expertise in the medical or legal consequences which are involved. This high-quality evidence has been immensely valuable in helping us to understand the problems and to assess the implications of the Draft Bill. We are very grateful to everyone who devoted so much time to providing us with information and views.

3. After our initial examination of the Draft Bill in the light of that evidence, we put a number of questions to the Department for Constitutional Affairs. The Department's responses were prompt and informative, and began an exchange of correspondence which continued for some time. We appreciate the efforts made by the Department, working under considerable pressure, to explain the Government's thinking on each issue which we raised, and to do it speedily and thoroughly.

4. Having considered all the evidence, we now report our views on the Draft Gender Recognition Bill.

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Prepared 20 November 2003