Gender Recognition Bill 2014: Committee Stage

SECTION 1

I move amendment No. 1:

In page 5, between lines 16 and 17, to insert the following:

"(3) The Minister shall, not later than 2 years after the date on which the Act is enacted, and again not later than 5 years after that date, carry out a review of the operation of this Act assessing, in particular, its consistency with international best practice in the field of gender recognition and its compliance with national, regional and international equality and human rights standards, and shall make a report to each House of the Oireachtas of his or her findings and conclusions resulting from the review.".

I welcome the Minister of State. The amendment provides that the legislation will be reviewed within two years and again within five years to ensure it is in keeping with international best practice in the field of gender recognition and international human rights and equality standards. The Minister of State said on Second Stage that the Bill would be reviewed relatively soon if the marriage equality referendum was passed and that he would work night and day to table an amendment to reflect that result. I applaud and welcome his commitment to amend the Bill in this way. The amendment relates to the entirety of the legislation but because of the injustices of the past, it needs to maximise the potential of the law to protect the dignity and self-determination of transgender people. There is an ongoing debate as to how progressive the Bill is. The Minister of State has argued that it is, and I accept that this is the case in some respects, but it is not in others. If it adequately protects the right to self-determination and for a person to be recognised as a person before the law, a commitment to review the Bill in this way will demonstrate the Government's intention that our statutes will be human-rights-compliant on an ongoing basis. That is why I have moved the amendment.

I strongly support the amendment, because it is important that we monitor the operation of the legislation.

This is very new and it would not have been contemplated 15 to 20 years ago, despite the heroic efforts of Dr. Lydia Foy and others. It is a new and fast-developing area and different European countries are developing at different levels and speeds. It is very important that we keep an eye on the way we are developing with regard to other countries.

I wish to put on the record of the House the way this is happening and I refer to a series of judgments. In the case of Goodwin v. United Kingdom 2002 - only 13 years ago - the unanimous judgment of the court was that in the 21st century, the right of transsexuals to personal development and to physical and moral security in the full sense enjoyed by others in society, cannot be regarded as a matter of controversy requiring the lapse of time to cast clearer light on the issues involved. That is unambiguous. The court found that the United Kingdom was in breach of its obligations under Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights because of its failure to legally recognise Christine Goodwin, a transgender woman, in her preferred female gender.

I refer to the case of Van Kück v. Germany in 2003, in which the court found in favour of the applicant stating that the case concerned her freedom to define herself as a female person. It described this as one of the most basic essentials of self-determination. That shows an extraordinary development since the war as this would have been absolutely unthinkable. I refer to the case of L v. Lithuania, in which the court found that states are required by their positive obligation under Article 8, to implement the recognition of the gender changes in post-operative transsexuals through, inter alia, amendments to their civil status data with its ensuing consequences. I refer to case of Schlumpf v. Switzerland 2009, which found on the right to personal self-fulfilment.

I also refer to the Lydia Foy case in this country where the High Court gave its judgment. Mr. Justice McKechnie said, "I must conclude that by reason of the absence of any provision which would enable the acquired identity of Dr. Foy to be legally recognised in this jurisdiction, the respondent State is in breach of its positive obligations under Article 8 of the convention." He made a declaration that the Irish Civil Registration Act was incompatible with the ECHR, the European Convention on Human Rights, because of its failure to provide for recognition of transgender persons in their preferred gender.

The EU gender recast directive of 2006 stated that the Court of Justice has held that the scope of the principle of equal treatment for men and women also applies to discrimination arising from the gender reassignment of a person. In its concluding observations, the United Nations Human Rights Committee in 2008 recommended that the state party should also recognise the right of transgender persons to a change of gender by permitting the issuance of new birth certificates. The Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights, Nils Muiznieks, in his letter to the Minister for Social Protection in November 2012, said that divorce should not be a necessary condition for gender recognition.

We are moving very rapidly. I will not refer to any further cases because I think I have put sufficient information on the record of the House to show that this is an area which has seen astonishingly rapid growth. Like homosexuality, this subject was regarded as unmentionable and people were afraid of it. I may have said before that I remember as a child being on the Limerick bus and seeing a woman, as I thought, with very hairy legs and heavy tweeds, being taken off by the police because she wore a skirt. That was the attitude in those days and when I was a young person, a young adult. These were people to be taken away and concealed and hidden and treated as mentally deficient, psychologically ill and all the rest. Now we have this tremendous body of legislation showing that these are human beings, citizens and people who are not mentally ill, who have a right and an increasing volume of human rights. This Bill is an improvement and the amendments put down by myself and colleagues will show that there is still a way to go in this legislation.

I will conclude on this note. We are in a situation which is changing rapidly, where new understandings are coming into play and, in particular, where people have the opportunity to meet with transsexual people. There is nothing like putting a human face on something and hearing the human experience. In light of this rapidly developing situation I believe the amendment is appropriate, and the amounts of time provided for are very reasonable. The amendment states, "... not later than 2 years after the date on which the Act is enacted ...". That gives time to assess. It further states, "... not later than 5 years after that date, carry out a review of the operation ...". Those are eminently sensible suggestions, and I cannot see any good reason the Government should object.

There would be a view that there are inherent flaws in this legislation and if, as seems likely, the Government will not accept the amendments being put before the House, this amendment would go some way to at least addressing question marks that have arisen about the drafting of the Bill and the substantive nature of some of the proposals contained therein. If the Bill is to pass in its current form, notwithstanding with Government amendments being accepted, which do not address some of the basic issues raised on Second Stage and no doubt will be repeated on Committee Stage, there might be some merit in the Minister considering this particular amendment. It is not without precedent. It happens in other legislation where there is a review period involved. In fact, I am a little surprised it is not included in the Bill as presented. I do not want to labour the point other than to say that I will support the overall concept and substantive nature of this amendment.

I welcome the Minister to the House. I welcome also the groups represented in the Gallery who I know have worked very hard on progressing this legislation. I refer to TENI and LGBT Noise, among others.

Senators Zappone and Norris, with customary eloquence, have put the case for a review very strongly, and I agree. The idea of a review is a sensible one and would address some of the issues raised with us in briefings by groups. As Senator Norris said, this is an area that is changing very rapidly. Indeed, since the Joint Committee on Education and Social Protection, which my colleague, Senator Moloney, was on, reported in January of last year there have already been changes. Some of the recommendations it made represented best practice at the time. We now see changes in Denmark, for example, which has brought forward more progressive legislation. It would be sensible to have some sort of review period built in and to enable us all to examine what has developed in terms of international best practice in the meantime.

The Senators proposing the amendment spoke in particular of the marriage equality referendum. If passed, and we all hope it will be - I will be working very hard to ensure its passage - I have already said I believe the best place to amend the provisions effectively on forced divorce in this Bill would be in the marriage equality referendum implementing legislation. I put the case on Second Stage, and I have put it both to the Tánaiste and the Minister present, that it would be appropriate to delete the provisions in sections 8 to 10, inclusive. Putting in a review period will enable us to ensure that there were no further problems in terms of the issue of marriage.

A review period would also enable us to address the issues around age that have been expressed to us, in particular protections for those under 16 who are currently not catered for directly in the Bill. The Oireachtas committee had recommended that there should be guidelines on how best to support transgender young people in schools. There are real concerns about bullying and discrimination. People have spoken to me about particular difficulties for young transgender people in schools. If schools are not supporting young people in expressing their rights, a review will enable us to ensure that, if necessary, legislation would be put in place to require schools to do that. In the meantime, guidelines for schools are essential, as the Oireachtas committee recommended, but the idea of a review is a sensible one.

I, too, welcome some of the representative groups in the Gallery and thank them for the support they have given to both Government and Opposition Members of the Dáil and the Seanad on this important Bill.

I support the amendment, which is being put because a number of us believe there are serious flaws and deficiencies in this Bill.

There is no doubt whatsoever that we will have to come back and deal with those issues some time in the future. What we want is to deal with those issues at the start because there are fundamental issues of human rights, civil rights and potential constitutional issues which arise also. I would work on the basis that a large number of constructive amendments have been tabled by the Opposition that will address some of those very real concerns. Why not accept those amendments today? Let us debate them. Many of them are reasonable and necessary if we want a truly rights-based Bill. This Bill is about gender recognition and yet there are a number of exclusions, including some people under the age of 16 and non-binary identity is completely excluded. That is the first problem.

The issue of divorce was raised by Senator Bacik and others. There is no guarantee yet, perhaps the Minister of State can clarify today, that these issues will be dealt with to our satisfaction in the marriage equality legislation when that comes before the House. That would be a step in the right direction and would certainly go some way to dealing with that problem but we should deal with it today.

Senator Norris dealt with pathology and medical recognition. That is absolutely wrong. It should not be happening. It is a relic of how we dealt with these issues in the past. It is a violation of the human rights of transgender people. Very sensible amendments have been tabled to deal with these issues. Because of those core concerns which are shared by other Senators and certain members of the Government and certainly the transgender community and its representative groups, it is necessary to have an amendment such as this accepted. It is unfortunate because one of the concerns of the groups is that the Bill will be forced through without those sensible amendments being accepted and we will have a flawed Bill rather than a landmark human rights, civil rights Bill which genuinely gives recognition to all citizens in the State rather than the step forward that this is but not going far enough. For those reasons I support the amendment but only reluctantly because we can better deal with those issues by the Government accepting many of the amendments which have been tabled by Members of the Opposition.

I thank the Minister of State for meeting us yesterday to discuss amendments to the Bill. He is dealing with this in the best possible way that it can be dealt with. I commend those who have put their names and their personal lives on the line and who are sitting in the Visitors Gallery, in order to see Ireland come into the 21st century dragged kicking and screaming, as it were. I commend him and the Tánaiste for bringing the Bill forward. However, like many before me, Senator Paschal Mooney has pointed out that it is unlikely, experience shows this, that we will get many amendments through during this debate. I know the Minister of State is open to accepting them where possible but life being what it is we may not see them go through.

This amendment is probably the most important amendment to the entire Bill. It seeks to open the door for a review and to keep it open for constant reviews. In passing Bills we, as legislators, need to be aware of the overarching principles of transparency, fairness and reasonableness. The gender recognition application process has to work for the people using it. It cannot impose excessive delays. We have heard already of one young man who has waited four years for medical certification. That is unacceptable. There must be consistency in decision making and that will create its own problems. There must be public confidence in the system. In short, transgender persons and their families must have confidence in the system.

As Ireland is one of the last countries to enact gender recognition legislation we must safeguard against complacency. We need to be vigilant in making sure we never breach human rights law again. What Dr. Lydia Foy had to go through to bring us here today is unbelievable. From that point of view the express needs of the transgender person are and must always be centre stage. How the Bill works in reality for the transgender person will have to be the subject of ongoing reviews at the two and five-year periods.

I support the amendment. If the Minister of State accepts no other amendment it will give comfort to those particularly in the area of enforced divorce, an issue on which, not so long ago, we saw bitter disputes in every street and town in every county when the Government tried to introduce divorce legislation. Now we have part of a Bill where if one member of a married couple decides to trans, we are saying, "Sorry, one has got to get divorced if one wants the recognition." I do not wish to delay the House other than to ask the Minister of State to take this amendment on board. At least that would give me some comfort that we will get a second chance to come back here.

It is my pleasure to welcome the Minister of State, Deputy Kevin Humphreys, to the House. It is nearly eight years since the High Court first ruled that the Irish State was in breach of its obligations under the European Convention on Human Rights because it did not have a mechanism to legally recognise the preferred gender of transgender individuals. I am happy to see the Government moving to rectify an obvious anomaly in the law. As the Minister of State is aware, Ireland remains the last of the 27 EU nations without any legal provision to recognise transgender or intersex people, therefore, this Bill is welcome.

I am happy to discuss the rationale for my amendments. In a country where divorce was only made legal in 1996 it is ludicrous that it is about to be made compulsory for some. The single criteria which demands that applicants be single if they are to apply for recognition in their preferred gender, forces married transgender people to choose between their family and their identity. Imagine being told that the State will not legally recognise one's identity unless one first divorces one's husband or wife. The explanation given for this is that otherwise it would allow for the existence of same sex marriages which are currently not allowed by law in Ireland. This requirement fails to acknowledge that transgender families exist and fails to offer their marriage the constitutional protection offered to every other marriage in Ireland.

What is the position of the forced divorce requirement under the International Human Rights Convention? In its concluding comments last year on the Irish periodic report under the covenant on civil and political rights, the UN human rights committee said it was concerned that the new heads of a gender recognition Bill, approved by Cabinet in 2014, retains the requirement for married transgender persons to dissolve the existing marriage or civil partnership to have their preferred gender formally recognised. The UN human rights committee urges our Government to ensure the right to legal recognition of gender without the requirement of dissolution of marriage or civil partnership. Under the provisions of the Bill, in line with Irish divorce law, a transgender-----

I do not wish to interrupt the Senator but the amendment deals primarily with a review and the issue the Senator is raising with regard to divorce may be more appropriate at a later stage. I have allowed her some latitude.

I can speak on it then.

I will allow the Senator in again.

I would support such a review if the Minister of State would consider it. I do not think anything is to be lost by it and, in fact, I think it would serve as an excellent tool for the legislators to review the operation of this legislation once it is enacted. Sometimes legislators believe or presume that because something is legislated for, the initial difficulty has been overcome but that is not always the case. This particular legislation is one that truly merits a review. I would hope the Minister of State would look favourably on this amendment.

I call Senator Moloney. The Members who tabled the amendment get priority in the debate. Senator Power can contribute after Senator Moloney.

My voice is almost gone, so I will be brief. I welcome the representatives of the various organisations to the Visitors' Gallery. I thank the Minister for giving his time yesterday to meet with the Members who requested a meeting with him. Some of us travelled many miles to get here yesterday afternoon, when the House was not sitting, but we considered it important to achieve a consensus on as many of the amendments as possible. We hope the Minister will accept as many as he can.

I agree with the sentiment behind this amendment and I hope the Minister will be able to accept it. It is a good idea to have a review after two years to consider any issues that people believe have not been dealt with properly or provisions that could be tweaked or changed. As my colleagues said, things are changing rapidly around the world, with countries moving in different directions. I urge the Minister to accept the amendment.

I spoke at length on Second Stage so I will not repeat those points. There are many amendments to be discussed, and I will address the specific issues later in the debate. I support the amendment tabled by Senator Zappone for the reasons already outlined. We should examine this again two years hence, particularly the forced divorce criteria. I hope it will be revisited much earlier in line with the Tánaiste's commitment. As soon as the referendum is completed we should revisit it, but, if not, at least with the amendment there is some type of safeguard to ensure it must be looked at again within the next two years. For that reason it should be supported.

I thank the Senators for their contributions on this. I also thank the Senators who met and engaged with me privately. It was very constructive. While this is the formal setting, much hard work and discussion has been done elsewhere by many Senators on this legislation.

With no disrespect to the Senators who made points regarding later amendments, I will not address those points but the amendment before us. First, I do not propose to accept the amendment. Section 6 provides for the Minister to produce a report on the operation of the legislation on an annual basis. It is clearly important that the impact and effectiveness of this ground-breaking legislation be carefully assessed over time. Senator Norris referred to the rapid change that is occurring. Even since the day we started drafting the legislation, our understanding has changed quickly. My understanding and education on this issue have increased over the weeks and months as we examined the legislation in depth.

The proposal to provide for a review mechanism has merit and I will give it detailed consideration. I have spoken to the Tánaiste about it in detail and I will table an amendment to that effect on Report Stage. I have listened very carefully, and hopefully I will have the amendment prepared and circulated as quickly as possible.

I welcome the Minister's comments. This is exactly the spirit of co-operation we look forward to in this House. I am very happy with what he said.

I thank the Minister.

He has surprised Senator Zappone.

In light of what the Minister said, I will withdraw the amendment. I look forward to what the Minister will bring forward on Report Stage. I acknowledge that the Minister's response is the result of careful listening by him and those in his Department. As the Minister said, that included many Senators, which was very impressive. There was also the work of our colleagues in the Visitors' Gallery, who encouraged us to do this work and to speak to the Minister about our concerns. I am grateful to the Minister and the Tánaiste.

I thank the Minister for his willingness to accept the principle. We are all delighted to hear it, and it augurs very well for the future, given that it is the first amendment. Let us hope there is more of that. It shows the Seanad working at its best and in a constructive and collegiate fashion.

I call Senator Mooney, one of the signatories to the amendment.

This reminds me somewhat of the county council meetings I used to attend. When a motion was agreed, every member felt it was necessary to stand up and thank everybody. Silence is not non-acceptance, and there are many amendments to be discussed. The Minister has accepted the amendment but will bring forward his own wording on Report Stage. Go raibh maith aige.

I also thank the Minister. It is a great example of parties working together and of the Minister and officials working with the elected representatives.

The Minister is getting much praise, so I will let him respond.

When I get praise, I sometimes wonder how long it will last.

At least until Report Stage.

This is ground-breaking legislation on which we have worked hard. It has been a priority for the Tánaiste to ensure that the legislation would be brought to the Houses and given effect this year. It is important that we work in co-operation when dealing with legislation that is extremely complex and new. The amendment is practical and reasonable, and I am delighted to be able to accept it. We had discussions with the Senators earlier but I could not give indications because, as Senator Mooney knows, a long process of negotiations and discussions must take place. However, it is a good reflection on the manner in which Senators approach their work. I thank them for the support they have given me over the last week as we worked together.

May I give some advice? I do not wish to go into lecturing mode but, as I said earlier, there are a number of amendments tabled by a collective group of Members. I hope that as we progress we could perhaps appoint a spokesperson to thank the Minister, rather than allowing each person to say it, as in the old song "Thank You Very Very Much, Mr. Eastwood".

He will not accept many more.

The Senator is taking up more time by saying that.

I say it for purely practical reasons. It will also spare the Minister's blushes. Incidentally, I hope this is creating a precedent for this legislation.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Section 1 agreed to.
SECTION 2

Amendments Nos. 2, 8, 15 to 18, inclusive, and 22 to 24, inclusive, are related and may be discussed together. Is that agreed? Agreed.

I move amendment No. 2:

In page 5, between lines 21 and 22, to insert the following:

“ “child” means a person under the age of 18 years;”.

I welcome our visitors to the Visitors' Gallery and I congratulate Senator Zappone. I did not speak on that amendment because I intend to say a great deal on this substantive point. I do not plan to speak on other matters, but this is an issue that is very close to my heart. I thank my colleagues Senators Mac Conghail and Zappone for supporting me in the grouping of amendments I tabled. I see that colleagues have similar intentions with the amendments they have put forward. I also thank the Minister for engaging with us.

I will outline the reason for this amendment. I do not intend to push it to a vote today but I intend to press it, or a similar wording of it, to a vote on Report Stage as I am very passionate about this issue. The rationale behind the amendments I have tabled derives from what will be Article 42A.1 of the Constitution, depending on the Supreme Court judgment, which states: "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." In my Irish Mirror column yesterday I spoke about Ireland's shocking record in respect of the treatment, welfare and well-being of children in Ireland, especially vulnerable children whose vulnerability we appear to compound systematically.

I note the significance of the successful passage of the children's rights referendum on 10 November 2012, which sought to incorporate into Irish constitutional law the principles that children have rights as individual human beings, independent of adults and that their best interests and opinions are vital when important decisions are being made about their lives. The Irish people have spoken out and spoken up for children. To my great frustration, these principles, which Ireland is already bound to respect under the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, have not yet taken constitutional effect because we are still awaiting a final decision from the Supreme Court on the legal challenge to the referendum. I am very aware of the pressure and backlog of cases at the Supreme Court but part of me wonders why, after 26 months of delay, we do not have a public outcry.

Despite a systemic change of mind set in recent years, we still have a long way to go to fully embrace the urgency of children's rights. It is very clear to me, having actively engaged at all levels of the consultation and debate around the wording of the constitutional amendment, that it was the intention of the Legislature and of the people in passing the referendum to ensure that children's rights are vindicated in the Constitution so that their rights will be safeguarded and vindicated in all future legislation. The aforementioned UN convention, which Ireland ratified in 1992, sets out an integrated and holistic approach to the rights of children and is internationally accepted as a model of implementation at domestic level. As far as I am concerned, in the drafting of any Bill which impacts on children's lives, it is now incumbent on us as legislators to ensure that the best interests of the child are the paramount consideration, the views of the child are heard when key decisions are being made about the child's life and that the evolving capacity of the child is facilitated. I believe that this Bill, specifically section 11 as currently drafted, fails to safeguard and vindicate children's rights in accordance with international law and the constitutional provisions. In fact, the rights of children under the age of 16 are not even open to consideration.

I will refer now to amendments Nos. 15 and 17. Gender recognition is an established human right to which children, as individual rights holders, should be entitled. In preparing for this debate today, I have looked for commentary or evidence about the age at which gender identity develops and was struck by the real dearth of research into transgender children. In fact, there is no incidence or prevalence data from Ireland or the UK on the number of transgender young people under 18. Of the research that was available, I noted that some paediatric specialists put the age of gender identity in children, whether transgender or not, at two or three. Other research cites gender identity development as occurring between three and five years of age. Elizabeth Reilly et al published a very interesting piece of qualitative research on the issue which solicited the views of transgender adults about the needs of gender-variant children and their parents in the Journal of Sex and Marital Therapy - the peer-reviewed scientific journal published by Routledge - in 2013. The researchers found that 94% of transgender adults had identified their gender before the age of 18, some 48% had identified their gender between zero and five years of age, while 44% had identified their gender between the age of six and 14. Only 2% identified their gender between 13 and 18 and only 2% after the age of 18, while 4% of the respondents did not reply. That is a pretty good indication of what period of a child's life is important in terms of gender identification and goes to the essence of what we are talking about here.

There was a time in Ireland, during the last century, when it was widely believed that people did not become aware of their sexual orientation until they reached adulthood. It was commonly believed that this was something a person decided or determined but thankfully, we are more enlightened as a society now and more understanding of the reality. When it comes to gender recognition, however, we are still back in the last century and that way of thinking. I would like us to understand that it is actually at an earlier age that one's gender identity is realised and understood. We need to accept that fact. That is why I have an issue with this Bill, which actively excludes children under 16 from its provisions for making an application for a gender recognition certificate. It denies outright any consideration of their best interests in the context of their personal circumstances. I believe that this runs contrary to the best interest of the child principle.

A good example of how this outright denial has serious implications for the transgender and intersex child is seen in the S v. Bord Uchtála case of 2009. That case involved an intersex child, born abroad, who had been registered as female at birth, was subject to a foreign adoption order and brought to Ireland to live. Upon examination by medical experts in Ireland and the United States, it was concluded that the child would most likely identify as a male and the decision was taken by the adoptive parents to raise the child as a boy. The parents sought an amendment of the register of foreign adoptions so that the child's paperwork would reflect his gender of rearing and so that he could be registered at the local boy's school. The Adoption Board refused the application on the basis that it did not believe it had the authority to grant this request. On judicial review in the High Court, Mr. Justice Sheehan granted the request but the difficulty is that this was an ex tempore judgment and not a precedent. I am concerned that a different judge, even in similar circumstances, might feel that he or she lacked the authority to grant such an order, given the discourse on this issue. In fact, I am worried that by introducing this legislation and being deliberately silent on children under 16, we are sending a clear message to the courts that they should never grant such an order. I will be seeking advice on this because a judge in a future case, similar to the one to which I referred, may find it extremely difficult to make a similar order. In the aforementioned case, those involved - both the parents and the child - agreed with the order. With this legislation, we are saying, "We know best. Go to a girl's school". We would be telling a young boy to go to a girl's school because we know best what is good for him and what is in his best interests. I believe that the best interests of that child were served by allowing him to be identified with the gender of his wishes, with which his parents concurred.

In terms of international precedent, in October 2013 the Argentinian authorities granted a female identification card and amended birth certificate to a transgender six year old Luna, formerly Manuel, under that country's ground-breaking gender identity law which allows people to change their name and sex without approval from either a doctor or a judge. Under Argentinian gender identity law, individuals have the right to the recognition of their gender identity. Individuals are also legally entitled to the free development of their person according to their gender identity and to be treated according to that identity, particularly to be identified in that way in the documents proving their identity, including the first name, image and sex recorded there. According to the law, gender identity is understood as the internal and individual way in which a gender is perceived by persons that can correspond, or not, to the gender assigned at birth including the personal experience of the body. This can involve modifying bodily appearance or functions but it can also include other expressions of gender, such as dress, ways of speaking and gestures.

I have heard this legislation described as progressive but as I speak, similar legislation is being debated in Malta which definitely is progressive. That legislation takes into consideration the lived life which is what we should be aspiring to. In Malta, a decision is allowed up to the age of 14. I thought that perhaps Malta would not face the same issues as we do in the context of single sex schools but I discovered that the majority of State-run secondary schools there are also single sex. Malta is able to deal with this issue and ensure that it acts in the best interest of the child.

I am particularly concerned about the mechanisms we need to have in place to minimise the challenges currently faced by transsexual and intersex children in Ireland. Examples of challenges are the segregated nature of our educational system and the requirement that parents must submit birth certificates for registration. Education, on which there is an amendment tabled, is a specific area to be considered but there are other settings in which children experience challenges. We may find a work-around.

In preparing for this debate, I was looking for examples. In California in January 2014, Assembly Bill 1266, or the School Success and Opportunity Act, came into effect for K-12 students, who are between four and 19, in the public school system. The law inserted the following provision into the existing legislation: "A pupil shall be permitted to participate in sex-segregated school programs and activities, including athletic teams and competitions, and use facilities consistent with his or her gender identity, irrespective of the gender listed on the pupil’s records." There was opposition to this but there was a vote and it was included in the regulations. In response to the new provision, Masen Davis, executive director of the Transgender Law Center in San Francisco, stated: "Now, every transgender student in California will be able to get up in the morning knowing that when they go to school as their authentic self they will have the same fair chance at success as their classmates."

Transsexual and intersex children are inherently vulnerable because of their age and lack of legal protection. We have an opportunity to lessen this vulnerability but instead we choose to turn a blind eye or put up an artificial barrier, despite the fact that evidence suggests, and adults have said, that it is in children's younger years that they identify what is occurring. I am thinking of the six year old child who has clearly articulated his preferred gender and which has been fully embraced by his parents, friends, extended family and community. Is this young child, a boy, really going to be forced to go through a girls' school wearing a girl's uniform and using the wrong name and pronouns to gain access to the education available in his locality? That is what we are doing to children in these circumstances. Are we really preparing to stand over legislation that in the case of the boy in question would cause unnecessary distress, embarrassment and humiliation, and potentially serious psychological harm, for ten years before he is eligible to apply to have his gender identity recognised? Legislation that fails to listen to the voice of children or consider their best interests is not legislation I want to stand over.

Where a child has clearly articulated views regarding his or her preferred gender, or where the child has an intersex condition that might merit a change in gender and legal recognition, he or she should be facilitated in achieving this end, especially where all parties agree. We do not even have a system where all parties can agree. In the amendments we have tabled, we have sought to find ways in which all parties can agree and, where they do not, where disagreement can be dealt with.

According to the Bill as currently drafted, 16 and 17 year olds will need an order from the court allowing them to apply to the Minister for a gender recognition certificate. The amendment I have tabled puts the best interest of the child front and centre in the court's consideration, which is where it should be. I do not believe it should be a matter for any medical practitioner or psychologist. We should allow cases to be dealt with in court to ensure the child's rights are upheld and protected.

The amendment is to secure the consent of the person referred to in subsection (4)(a) since the current drafting means the court has no authority to override the non-consent of an individual. We need to have the measure I propose because we need to adhere to the principle of the best interest of the child. We do this with other types of legislation, such as adoption legislation.

For me, the current provisions fly in the face of the requirement to ensure in our laws that the child's best interest should determine the process. Furthermore, the fact that the process for achieving gender recognition is open only to 16 and 17 year olds on consent does not make sense to me. Under the Non-Fatal Offences against the Person Act 1997, 16 and 17 year old children can choose, if they wish, to seek medical services as part of a medical transition process in their own right. They have full consent to go through the medical processes, yet the Bill requires parental consent to apply for a gender recognition certificate. The thinking is that children can undergo any medical procedure they wish but, to get the piece of paper, we need to protect them and involve their parents. It just does not add up.

I am genuinely concerned about the absence of a provision ensuring the best interest of the child. When the general scheme of the legislation was available, the Ombudsman for Children advised that, if we had this process, an "illogical situation would arise in which the State would countenance a young person receiving the relevant medical treatment on the strength of his or her own consent, yet that consent would be insufficient to obtain legal recognition of the young person’s preferred gender and the outcome of that treatment".

I hope the constitutional amendment will come into effect shortly. In any case, we have an obligation, having ratified the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, to ensure we have the best interest of the child at the heart of all our legislation. That we are silent about those aged 16 and below would not allow for the court case I instanced or any other court cases in which a judge could use his or her discretion. As legislators, we cannot stand over that. We need to go back to the drawing board and consider the best interest of the child and find a mechanism on which everyone can agree, allowing children to live their lives as they desire. Can one imagine trying to live one's life as another somebody with a different identity? One might regard oneself as a "she" but be called "he" and be expected to conform by wearing certain clothing. We know clothing is a big issue for young people in schools. Are we really to deny their voice, best interests and what we now know about children, that is, that they have an evolving capacity and are able to make these decisions? We can find a structure that safeguards them and regards their best interest as paramount.

I have raised this issue at length on Second Stage, so I will not repeat everything I said then. I share the concerns raised. Under the legislation, there is no system whatsoever or arrangement by which somebody under 16 can obtain a general recognition certificate. The process for those over 16 is incredibly cumbersome. It will be next to impossible for many young people to satisfy the criteria.

Senator van Turnhout mentioned Argentina, where there is no age limit. Countries that originally legislated with age limits are now reconsidering them with a view to introducing more progressive legislation. We should be starting from a more progressive position rather than providing in legislation what other countries provided ten or 15 years ago. As has been stated, young transgender people know from the age of three, four or five what their true gender is. It becomes a daily struggle or challenge for them when it is not recognised by the State, schools or State agencies with which they interact. We have the opportunity to change this and help a particularly vulnerable group of young people. Among this group, the suicide rate is frightening and much higher than that for any other group. All we are being asked to do is recognise who they are. It is not much to ask for. It is incredibly unfortunate and unfair that there is no provision whatsoever for anybody under 16. Those over 16 should be able to make a decision in their own right and should not be subjected to the incredibly cumbersome process set out in the Bill. As has been pointed out, they can consent to medical treatment at that point or have surgery, which has a far greater impact on their lives and is much harder to reverse than being given a piece of paper by the State. It seems irrational that somebody would be able to consent to medical treatment at 16 but not get a gender recognition certificate.

Amendment No. 8 will ensure that those over 16 will be treated as adults and use a process set out in the legislation for those aged 18 and older. There should be a process by which young people under 16 can obtain a gender recognition certificate. It is right that this would involve parental consent.

Consequently, while I think the process the Minister of State has set out for 16 and 17 year olds is overly cumbersome for a young adult who can make autonomous decisions in other more significant areas, it would be fair enough for those under 16. I intend to table an amendment on Report Stage to provide for this. I first seek feedback from the Minister of State as to why nothing has been done for anybody under 16. As the process as provided for is so difficult to satisfy, why would the Minister of State not be satisfied with 14 and 15 year olds being able to use that process in cases where the 14 year olds themselves know what are their preferred gender, if their parents consent and if they can satisfy the court it is the appropriate course of action for them? As I stated, there is no age requirement at all in other countries and I seek the Minister of State's feedback because this is a crucial issue for a particularly vulnerable group of young people who, as the Bill stands, are being let down.

I support both speakers and Senator van Turnhout in particular, who has laid out many reasons and has provided a number of pieces of evidence in order that the Minister of State might consider accepting the different amendments she has tabled, as well as her powerful, elegant and eloquent argument for ensuring that Members are attentive to the best interests of the child. In addition, she has asked the question, as has Senator Power, as to why there is silence. Members must hear from the Minister of State in some way to fill that silence. Amendment No. 8 in particular may approach the issue from a slightly different angle from all those tabled by Senator van Turnhout in particular. In case that bar is too high, this is why it would be particularly useful to have this review and the two-year period the Minister of State has indicated he would be willing to accept. However, as Senator Power has stated, were the Minister of State at least to accept amendment No. 8, it simply suggests that those who were aged 16 and over would be getting recognised on the same grounds as are those who are 18 and over, which already is provided for in the Bill. I support this for all the reasons that have been put forward.

First, I appeal to the Minister of State to listen to what has been said and, as he did with amendment No. 1, to reflect on the powerful contribution made by Senator van Turnhout and others on this issue. I hope he was moved by the contribution because it pertains to the reason I am not in a position to give the Bill an enthusiastic welcome. Even though the Minister of State has labelled it as being groundbreaking, I perceive it to be a step forward. The reason I am unable to call it groundbreaking or to give it an enthusiastic welcome is because it excludes explicitly children under the age of 16. This is one core concern both I and many others in the Chamber have. This goes right to the heart of Members' concerns because this State has come through a children's referendum that was to establish children's rights. I supported the referendum and Sinn Féin supported the Government position at the time. We did so with reservations because many people were telling our members that this again was merely aspirational and did not go far enough. Again, while Sinn Féin considered that constitutional amendment to be a step forward, this is a Bill about gender recognition that explicitly excludes children. The account given by Senator van Turnhout about the six year old boy brought Members right to the heart of that young child and other young children who will be placed in a similar position, in which they will not have their gender recognised with all the trauma both Members and the Minister of State are aware this will bring to them. On hearing the account given of that child who is a boy but who will be forced to go to a girls' school and to wear girls' uniforms, it is absolutely appalling that this would happen in present-day Ireland.

The point being made by Senator van Turnhout was that even if the parent consents or both parents consent, it still would not be enough. As there is no good reason for this, I would be interested to hear what is the Government's defence of this omission. I cannot understand how anyone could stand over not including children under 16. I accept the Minister of State has created a pathway for 16 and 17 year olds, about which I have concerns in respect of parental consent and the pathologising and medicalising of the process. Perhaps this sort of model should have been considered for children under 16, albeit with improvements to deal with some of the issues I have just raised. As did all Members, I have met many of the trans groups and by and large, parents are the chief advocates for their children. They are hugely supportive of their children and want the best for them. Moreover, a child knows his or her own gender. As the Minister of State and I have our gender recognised, why should it be the case that the gender of a young boy or girl is not being recognised? How can any government or state stand over that? This is what these amendments seek to do. Amendment No. 22 proposes the deletion of lines five to 11 on page 12 and their substitution with text I will not read out. Its purpose is to ensure that under circumstances in which there is a child applicant and a parent who will not consent to the process, the court may dispense with his or her consent if he or she refuses to give it, when proceeding with that process would be in the best interests of the child. I also support this amendment, which is important.

A number of amendments have been grouped together. I will leave it at that because other Senators wish to contribute, because Members have heard a lengthy but moving and heartfelt contribution from Senator van Turnhout to which I do not believe any Member could add and because all the amendments seek to do the same thing, namely, to remove the age requirement in respect of those aged 16 to 18 and to ensure that everybody, including children, will have their gender recognised. The point Members made earlier was that they will be obliged to deal with this issue again. Whatever the configuration of the next Government may be, if the Minister of State is not in a position to accept these amendments today or to come back on Report Stage with his own amendments and if the Minister of State proceeds with what is a flawed Bill and a denial of the human and civil rights of many children in the State, Members would then be obliged to return to this issue. My party would be absolutely committed to amending any future legislation or bringing forward amending legislation to vindicate the rights of all of those children who would not be supported, to put it mildly, were the Bill in its current form to be passed.

Nothing could illustrate more clearly the rapidly changing nature of this debate than the legislation that currently is in place or being discussed in Argentina, Malta and Denmark. Matters are moving ahead rapidly and our understanding is also developing quickly. It appears to me that the recognition and understanding by individuals of their own gender identity comes before their understanding and identification of sexual orientation. Gender identification comes at a significantly earlier stage and this poses difficulties for young people. For example, let us consider first the question of people aged 16 and 17. The legislation as currently framed presents almost insuperable obstacles to them getting gender recognition legally in respect of their documents. They have four hurdles to pass, the first of which is parental consent. Then there is a certificate from the primary medical treating practitioner to be followed by a second certificate from an endocrinologist. What on earth an endocrinologist has to do with the price of eggs is beyond me but I presume this is some fantasy from the Department. Moreover, the endocrinologist is to have no connection with the child, which is daft. I would have thought that someone providing a certificate for a child would need to have some connection with the child but there is to be none.

It would have to be a complete stranger and an endocrinologist or a psychiatrist. God preserve us. Finally, the fourth requirement is a court order. One might get one or two of those but one would have a hell of a hard job getting four of them all together. I just do not see it. That presents a really problematic barrier for people and that is likely to make recognition inaccessible for people aged 16 and 17, and children under 16 would be excluded completely from being legally recognised whether or not they have their parents’ consent.

I am not going to rehearse what Senator van Turnhout presented magisterially to this House. She provided a wealth of examples, court cases and so on and so forth. I know of some of the cases but there is no point in repeating or rehashing them, except to say I agree with every single word that she said.

With regard to people under the age of 16, this is where the problem really starts. This is a crucial point. It is a fundamental issue. Children are at the most vulnerable stage. They are as vulnerable to being picked on as white blackbirds, as a bit odd or whatever else, in particular if they are placed in a quandary by the school authorities who refuse to recognise their gender identity. That points them out and puts a spotlight on them. The schools can decide they are not going to negotiate either with the individual or the groups, because they have no legal standing. As Senator van Turnhout said, “we decide for you”.

Then there is the very practical question of gender appropriate facilities such as changing rooms and lavatories. Another issue is wearing the right uniform. Why should a boy be made wear a skirt? Why should a girl be made wear trousers if that is what they are? There is also the question of bullying. People are obviously going to be highlighted by the discrepancy which will make them more susceptible to bullying, which leads to an increased rate of suicide. That is all I have to say because it has been said so well by my colleagues. I endorse every word that has been said and I hope the Minister will take it into consideration.

I would love to be able to use some of the very eloquent words that have been used here today in some of the very moving speeches. All I can really say is that puberty is the most confusing time in one’s life. It is a long time ago since I went through puberty but I still remember it and it will haunt me to the grave. Could one imagine being forced to come to that age in life in a gender that is not one’s recognised gender?

There has been much talk today about provisions for people up to the age of 16. Thank God for the media today and the speed at which information comes to us. I can inform the Minister that right now in Sweden it is being planned to split gender recognition into two areas, legal gender recognition and medical treatment. The main points are the separation of the legal and the medical into two different laws. Individuals will be able to get a legal change of gender at 15 or from the age of 12 for children with parental consent. The gender reassignment scheme is allowed from the age of 15 and for intersex children from under 12.

I had huge difficulty with this entire subject when first confronted by it. I remember discussing the matter with my wife who is a children’s nurse. She explained to me that from time to time children are born and it is far from clear what gender they are. A consultant or other doctor steps in and makes a decision and the child is pumped with hormones in order to make the child whatever that person said they were. We must be extremely careful. What we are doing with the Bill is putting barriers and constraints around the type of case Senator van Turnhout adverted to, where everybody, including the dogs in the streets, agree that a child has been misgendered and wants to trans. The parents want it to happen. One could ask why we want to force them to go through puberty to the age of 16 before they can make a decision. I remember puberty and the experience will follow me to the grave. I challenge anyone present to say it did not drive them insane also.

It did not drive me insane.

We are putting in this extra barrier.

Thank God. At least the Minister is to return to the House with the first amendment we tabled but I urge him to examine the age issue as well.

I welcome the Minister of State, Deputy Kevin Humphreys, to the House. I listened to the earlier Stage of the debate. I thank him for agreeing to consider amendment No. 1.

Like others who have spoken I will not pretend I am an expert but I have done a lot of reading, looked at submissions and I have listened to people. I wish to refer to research and I ask Members to think about it. I have been dealing with children all my life, in particular small children in Montessori schools and preschool children. Gender identity is usually formed by the age of three and is extremely difficult to change after that. Formation commonly concludes between the ages of four and six. That might be startling but it is referenced. I will not bore the House with all the details but that reference in particular is from Zucker. Another article of interest was in The Nurse Practitioner journal. Gender identity is influenced by others, by social interactions and a child’s own personal interest. Understanding gender identity can be broken down into four parts: understanding the concept of gender and learning gender roles, standards and stereotypes; identifying with parents; and forming gender preferences. The final one is particularly important. Barbara Newmann examined development through life from a psychological perspective. I do not pretend to be an expert on the matter but one reads the experts when one wants information. A three-year old can identify himself or herself as a boy or girl but they do not yet fully understand the implications of gender. That could probably apply to every single one of us. We do not fully understand the implications of gender and we leave it to the medical experts in various fields.

I welcome the Bill. It is a major a major step forward for the Minister of State to bring the Bill to the House. We cannot get everything right on day one but we must leave the door open to make changes. I welcome in particular the review. I hope the Minister of State will be able to reduce the age before the review. Could he give a commitment that the matter will be open for consideration given the support provided by studies dating from Freud, Piaget, Kohlberg and others? There was denial for so long and it is only now that we are tackling the issue. Other countries are more advanced than we are but I will not get into the details. Two countries that are quite advanced in this regard are Argentina and the Netherlands. I have a review of the situation in various countries. We are playing catch up. We do not have to reinvent the wheel. We can look at what has worked elsewhere, and what has been changed in other countries. I urge the Minister of State to examine the matter in depth.

I thank Members for their contributions. I can feel the passion and how strongly Senator van Turnhout feels. Senator Norris indicated at the outset on the first amendment how quickly the situation is changing, and how different the legislation would be if we were doing it ten years ago or even nine months ago. By constantly redrafting the legislation on each Stage we can examine the situation in various countries. We might not be happy with certain elements of legislation elsewhere and, in turn, they might quote legislation coming through this House.

When I tried to inform myself on the issue in advance of the Bill’s publication I noted that an expert panel had recently been proposed. That is an indication of how far we have moved in this regard. I do not see the debate as being combative or the Government being defensive. Each Member of the Seanad is trying to work as best he or she can in the circumstances to produce the best legislation possible.

Yesterday, I read from a letter that captured the Bill. Senator Norris has submitted many proposals. I know of the bullying that occurs in schools because it happened to members of my family. I have seen the effects that bullying has on children, so I hear the Senator loud and clear, but the Bill cannot cover everything. People referred to education, for example.

The Bill does not offer a position as to when an issue of transgendering arises during the course of a person's life. Rather, it seeks to provide for recognition of the position of a mature person who has settled and has a solemn intention to live in his or her preferred gender for the remainder of his or her life. That is what we are trying to achieve with this Bill. I was moved by the Senator's contribution, but no matter how moved I am, we must frame legislation in our current position.

I will address a number of direct remarks. Where an intersex child is reassigned, he or she can be dealt with under the Civil Registration Act's section on corrections of error. We will keep this element under review.

Regarding amendments Nos. 15 to 18, inclusive, the Bill is based on the Attorney General's advice. Senator Norris will disagree with our position, but what we have all been striving to do is to protect children. The validation process requires two hurdles rather than four, so that was probably a slip of the tongue. Can we wait for every judgment that is due in all other jurisdictions?

I agree with Senator Craughwell about the first amendment being important, but this legislation addresses a vast number of issues. After we have seen how it works in practice in its first few years, we can amend it. Besides that, we must also watch how the situation is changing. People have articulated their opinions strongly, but I am not in a position to agree with them today.

The decision to seek gender recognition from the State is a significant one that will have important implications for a person throughout his or her life. Therefore, it is important that anyone seeking a gender recognition certificate is doing so in the full knowledge of the consequences and has the necessary maturity to make that decision.

Following the joint committee's report of January 2014, the Tánaiste secured Government approval for a Bill to reduce the minimum age to 16 years while requiring those aged under 18 years to have the consent of their parents or guardians, bar in exceptional circumstances to be approved by court order. Senator Norris went through this matter in detail. I accept his points but I cannot move on them today. I have heard him loud and clear. I have argued and discussed many issues at length with Senators. The Bill's provision on a minimum age goes well beyond the legislative measures in many other EU member states. While I can understand people's arguments for wanting to push it even further, I do not propose to accept these amendments. Nor will I table amendments on this matter on Report Stage. The review mechanism will be of assistance, though. I do not necessarily agree with the Senators' sentiments, but I can see where people are coming from on this issue. I may be proven wrong in time, but I am not in a position to accept the amendments.

I will be reasonably brief, because it is clear that the Minister of State will not accept the amendments. However, he is not quite so clear on whether he will not consider the matter for Report Stage. I urge him to do so. This is a radical series of amendments, but "radical" just means that it goes to the root of the problem. It comes from the Latin radix, meaning "root". We should be going to the root and protecting young people.

The Minister of State referred to protecting children, but that is not what he is doing. I can speak with some authority on this matter, as I have been grotesquely misrepresented in this regard. What the Minister of State is discussing is the political reality that if one does anything on the issue of children, one will be subjected to intense scrutiny and one's motives will be misinterpreted, particularly where the children are young. People will misinterpret what is stated and talk about parental rights, the family and this, that and the other. The entire area of children is a minefield. For this reason, it is necessary that the House have Independents who are not so subject to the whims of political and public opinion and the kind of nonsense that is stirred up by certain elements in the media. It is not a question of sensitivity to children or of protecting their rights. It is actually a question of protecting the political base. People will not get involved because there may be misinterpretation. This is my view of the situation.

This is an important matter, as the people who are the subject of the Bill are at their most vulnerable. They will not be protected by this legislation. I hope the Minister of State will take a further opportunity to reflect on the matter calmly and to determine whether, in light of the arguments and the substantial volume of legal precedent that has been put on the record by Senator van Turnhout and others, it is possible for the Government to move in a more radical fashion. The Minister of State would generally have the support of the House. I have heard no one on the Government side speak effectively against this proposal. Indeed, Senator Keane has indicated that, in her experience and from her reading of the scientific material, gender identification generally takes place at an extraordinarily early age - from three to five years old. That is obvious. Was it something that the public did not know? We should be in advance of the public, not led by it. In legislation such as this, we should be leading and informing public opinion. I doubt whether the people of middle Ireland are glued to their computers, assuming this is even going out on computer. I very much doubt it. Maybe the people are glued. In some small way, this debate will contribute to their education.

It would create a good headline if the Minister of State were to give an indication that he would at least consider this matter in future. We in Seanad Éireann understand the political difficulties of anything dealing with the welfare and rights of children, particularly when there is any suggestion of sexual identity, sexuality or so on. The entire Chamber would support the Minister of State were he to give an undertaking to consider this issue ahead of Report Stage. He could then tell us that he had decided against it and we would argue it again. I appeal to him not to close his mind. This is a new and radical area, but the Seanad is a place where it is appropriate to be radical.

I am conscious of the time and that I have outlined all of my arguments. I am disappointed, as I was co-operative in how I tried to put forward my position and explain what we are trying to do on an evidence basis as well as a human one. That is part of our job. The Minister of State is right in that we can consider other laws, but some of those were drafted a long time ago. Malta is going much further.

I would love that we were passing the law that is being passed in Malta today, which is centred around the lived lives of transgender people. They were brought into the centre of this matter. I am not asking for that and instead am asking for something more conservative than Malta. I ask that we ensure we have a process, especially where everybody is in agreement or where the best interests of the child are fundamental.

I understand what the Minister of State said about looking at other jurisdictions and other laws. I ask him to look at what the Irish people voted for in November 2012. They voted to say that 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. For me, this is a very specific case. Leading up to the referendum I felt at last we were no longer saying to children to sit and wait in the corner, as it were, because we were going to deal with the adult stuff first, sort our lives out first and make children wait. We were dealing with these problems whether it was looking at adoption law, information and tracing, the mother and baby homes or historical abuse.

Do we say we had a chance here in the Seanad or do we want to wait to see the scarred lives that people will have? I spoke to social workers today and told them the amendments that I was putting forward on behalf of children. They said that was brilliant because people like them in the mental health services are getting the repercussions of this issue not being dealt with and of a blind eye being turned. That is what we are dealing with.

I urge the Senator not to indulge in a Second Stage speech.

I am speaking on the issue. I am entitled to comment on Committee Stage.

I do not wish to restrict the Senator.

This is the time to respond to the Minister of State.

We are debating an amendment.

I am responding. We are on Committee Stage and I suggest the Acting Chairman looks at the fact that amendments have been grouped.

The Minister of State has said that the provision is based on the advice of the Attorney General, so we are saying one person will make this decision. Will he go back to Government and ask whether we really are willing to exclude? Will he ask whether this means that no more court cases can go forward, like the one I cited to him of S v. Bord Uchtála? We are saying that we as a State are very happy to compound in our law that we will give no opportunity for a child who identifies a gender to go to a school of their choice that their parents agree with and that everybody agrees with. That is not being progressive. It upholds parents' rights and the child's rights but I do not see progression.

Will the Minister of State go back to the drawing board and have a look again to see what we can do? I ask him to re-read the advice that came from the Ombudsman for Children on the general scheme that very much outlined very good and clear cases of why we need to do this. I do not accept that we are being groundbreaking in any way. I find it regrettable that we cannot even find a way to have a conservative amendment at least to allow a small number of children to live their lives as they wish, and as their families and friends wish them to live.

I find myself in the position where, if forced to, I would support the Bill because there are people sitting here who have waited 20 or more years. This little country of ours inflicted so much pain and suffering on children. Down through the generations we turned a blind eye to everything that went on in this country. Today we have a chance to lead the world in the area of gender recognition.

The Minister of State indicated, and I believe him, that he will look as hard as he can and as favourably as he can on all of the amendments. I do not think what Senator van Turnhout asked for is out of this world. Her proposal is quite conservative when it boils down to it.

This Bill has to pass. Even if it is the flawed version, it has to pass because people have waited 25 years or more for it to pass. If we pass the flawed version and spend years banging through amendment after amendment, what will those children, who will then be 50 years old, say about us? What will they say about our empathy for their situation? What will they say about our understanding of our fellow humans? We have a rare chance to lead the world, to provide legislation that will recognise the needs of our fellow human beings. I ask the Minister of State to take what I have said on board.

I am disappointed with the Minister of State's response. I listened very carefully to what he had to say. All of the amendments are designed to put children, their best interests and their rights front and centre. I agree with what Senator Norris said because it is exactly what we are trying to do - deal with the root of this issue. It strikes me as not just odd or bizarre but outrageous and wrong that while moving in the right direction in terms of gender recognition, we will leave out very young children where it is blindingly obvious they are going to have to go through an ordeal, as in the case of the six year old boy Senator van Turnhout spoke about earlier. The Minister of State has not given me any reason he would want to see that child or any child go through that ordeal, even after hearing all of the concerns raised about a negative. It will have an impact on that child's health and well-being. It will have a psychological impact as well as causing bullying and isolation. That child is going to be put through all of these situations because we are not prepared to make the right decision in this Bill, which is appalling. I will continue, as will others, to press this issue.

I appeal to the Minister of State to reflect on what has been said. I hope he will be able to come back on Report Stage. If not, then this is not the groundbreaking Bill and good day that it should be for gender recognition. It is sad that this is one of the more explicit exclusions in the Bill, which I find fundamentally wrong at every single level and goes right to the heart of how we should deal with this issue.

Senator Craughwell is right. Why should a child have to wait until they are 16 years old before having their gender recognised? That is the simple question. That is what is so wrong about this Bill and what is so flawed about it. Why should somebody have to wait until they are 16 years old? Why should a child have to wait and go through all of that trauma?

I suggest the Minister of State follows the logic of his position and the logic of what he has done. He rightly looked at the 16 and 17 year olds and put in place a process to create a pathway for them. I have concerns about the pathway but at least a pathway has been put in place. The logic of that position is that the Minister of State would also make that available for people who are under 16 years. It does not make any sense to do it for 16 and 17 year olds but not for the six year old about whom Senator van Turnhout spoke, and all the other children who find themselves in a similar position.

It is unfortunate, to say the least, that the Minister of State has responded in that way that he has. The legislation deals with vulnerable children. As we have said, it could have a psychological impact on many people. That is why Senators are passionate about it and that is the reason they have made lengthy contributions, because they want to impress upon the Minister of State the importance of the amendment. We have tried to get him, as all of us should, to put himself in the shoes of those children and ask what we would want the State to do. If we were in that position, what would we want the State to do for us? We would want it to do the right thing and provide gender recognition. If I were in their shoes, I would want those children to have their gender recognised in the way that mine is.

The Minister of State has a responsibility to look at the amendment again. I do not how he can reject it after what he heard from the Government side. I refer to the way Senator Keane spoke and how she expressed her knowledge of the situation.

I have discussed this matter. I have been involved with this issue for three or four years and there are people in the Gallery who I have been involved in helping for a number of years. It was Bertie Ahern who asked me to get involved in this issue about three years ago. I discussed this issue with my husband about three weeks ago and he was taken aback. He is up to date on matters but he was quite shocked at what he was hearing and wondered if this was an issue of importance to many people. He was taken aback if the Minister of State knows what I mean by that. I am not taking from him as a person or his intelligence but I had to explain the seriousness of this issue. It is not on the public radar and our duty as legislators is to bring forward issues and legislation that will help to improve the lives of people in our society.

I wish to speak about this from my personal experience when my sister was training to be a midwife in a maternity hospital in this city some years ago. She arrived at my house devastated and said she had been part of a team delivering a baby whose sex was not defined. Is the Minister of State listening to me?

I ask that he would not read through his papers. I will repeat what I said. I am not being rude and the Minister of State knows that I am very fond of him but I want him to listen to this. My sister was part of a team that delivered a baby in the largest maternity hospital in this city and following it she came to my house totally devastated that a baby had been delivered whose sex was not clearly defined. That baby and its parents were sent home to the west without the matter being raised with the parents. I will never forget that night when my sister came to me and told me. She was very upset that the hospital sent them home without raising the matter with them. I do not know what the hospitals do now when a situation like that arises. I will never forget that night and it is indelibly printed on my mind. I often think of that child and how it got on in life. As Senator Craughwell said, it is hard enough in life when one knows who one is and what one is. If it is not clearly defined physically who one is when one is born, I cannot bear to think about how the child's life would be. I plead with the Minister of State on behalf of all the people here to consider this issue. It is interesting that it is mostly women who are speaking on this issue. It is fascinating.

I am the only joker in the pack.

Fair dues to the Senator.

I made that comment having regard to the number of Members in this House. It is not the first time that when it comes to serious issues that there are only women present to discuss them. We need more women here. Of the 33 members of the Fianna Fáil Parliamentary Party, only two are women. It is a hard station.

There are only two fairies.

We do not know; I was tempted to say today how many, but I am not going to.

I plead with the Minister of State with regard to this issue. It is not a populist one. People are not out on the streets shouting and roaring that they want all this change to happen, but we have to educate the public about this issue in that there are people who have a problem because they are not happy in the gender they were born in. The Minister of State cannot say that he will not come back to this issue on Report Stage. He has a moral responsibility to listen to us. That is all I have to say about it. We need to have a national conversation about this issue as well to inform the people of Ireland because they are not aware of it. There is no doubt about that because my husband was not aware of it and he does not miss much. I ask the Minister of State to withdraw his comment that he would not come back to it on Report Stage. He has a responsibility in this respect.

I was also very disappointed by the Minister of State's response. I am also disappointed that we get the impression that there is unlikely to be any movement on the key issues we have identified - those of the age criteria, the medical criteria and the forced divorce requirement - where Members have issues with the Bill. That is unfortunate because on this Stage and on Second Stage voices on all sides of the House said that this Bill does not go far enough. That is not only the view of Opposition Senators like myself but the view of Senators on the Government side. That is such a shame. The Minister of State has said he hears us but we are not getting anything from him in this respect. That is a shame.

I asked the Minister of State to outline why he is not satisfied for somebody under the age of 16 - be that aged ten, 14 or 15 - to use the incredibly onerous process that is set out, where a person under the age of 16 would not only have to be prepared to make a determination on having their preferred gender recognised but would also need parental consent and a court order. He is saying he does not trust the young person. He is also saying that he does not trust the parent or our courts which make sense of decisions in regard to children and their welfare on a daily basis. I am often in situations where there is much more conflict, where the parent is arguing one thing and the court is being asked to take a different point of view. In this case, the parent would be in agreement and the court is being given the opportunity to validate that, to accept the consent of the parent who is the person who is most familiar with the young person apart from the young person themselves. All the Minister of State is saying is that he cannot move on this but that seems to be more down to political unwillingness rather than to any reason as to why we are wrong on this.

As has been pointed out, other countries initially started with such a conservative approach but they are rethinking that. We should not be looking at what other countries did ten or 15 years ago; we should be considering what is best practice in 2015 and best practice in terms of genuinely caring about the best interests of children, and Senator van Turnhout referred to our children's rights referendum. Against the backdrop of all the mistakes we made in the past where we did not listen to or believe children and did not accept they were capable of making decisions based on their own age and maturity and simply dismissed them as being incapable, the point of that referendum was to change that and to say that from here on in as a society we want to make sure that the best interests of children are placed front and centre stage.

The legislation the Minister of State has brought forward means that even where it is manifestly in the best of interests of a young person to be able to get their true gender recognised, where not only they believe but their parents and the courts believe that, he is still not prepared to provide for it. That is incredibly unreasonable and unfair. Unfortunately, I do not get the sense that there will be any movement on this. I have one amendment tabled regarding people aged over 16 and I sense that he is not prepared to move on that. We will push that amendment to a vote today because I do not believe we will get a different answer from the Minister on Report Stage. I will support the amendment regarding the under the age of 16 if it is pushed to a vote today. I would prefer a system for those aged over 16 where they would not need parental consent and a separate system for those aged under 16 where they would need it. We will table a Report Stage amendment to deal with that, namely, that for those aged under 16, the process that applies in the Bill currently for 16 and 17 years old would apply. We will press the amendment today providing that those aged 16 and 17 should be treated as adults.

I advise Senator Norris that I have never been led by public opinion. I have always been out of kilter with public opinion, going back to the Eighth Amendment of the Constitution and right through my political career.

Perhaps if I had been more in tune with public opinion, I might have been elected to the House at a much earlier stage.

Several Senators made the point about listening and reviewing. I would not come into this House if I was not prepared to listen and take into consideration what is being said, but I have a sense of honesty within myself that I should give a clear indication of where my thoughts are on this. With every motion and every contribution made in the House, I take on board the comments, review the matter and go over the advice I have been given. Members have said that they want to press amendments to a vote on Report State and I wanted to be fair to them and state exactly what my thinking is on this. That is why I said very clearly that I did not propose to accept the amendments. Fianna Fáil has taken note of that and that is the reason it will press the amendment to a vote this evening and I can understand that. It is important that a give a clear indication in that respect.

However, I will reflect on it after the debate. I will read the debate in the Official Report because some of the contributions were very detailed and I want to reconsider them. I want to give this House the respect it deserves.

I was listening to Senator White. I hope the practice she mentioned does not continue in major maternity hospitals, but sometimes it is difficult to determine the sex of a child. Unfortunately, sometimes parents do leave the hospital, but there is a mechanism in the registration process to correct that. It is deeply upsetting for the parents not to have a clear understanding as they leave the hospital. I would not like to be a parent going through that experience and I can understand why the Senator's sister was so upset when she came back from work. I believe we have moved on from that. I hope such experiences are in the past and that there are procedures and mechanisms in maternity hospitals to deal with parents in a sensitive manner on the rare occasion when this happens, and that they get good advice. The Senator can rest assured that I was listening while looking through the papers.

A number of points were made on education, but I will deal with that later when responding to a specific amendment on bullying.

The minimum age has been considered in other jurisdictions. Denmark recently revised its procedures and retained the minimum age of 18. I do not want to say that the Government does not want to move on this or that it is not listening. Pre-legislative scrutiny of Bills now takes place and Committee Stage is a long process which allows further consideration. I was not a Minister of State when Committee Stages of Bills were being taken, but it is interesting to read the Official Report of those Stages and see changes and moves in regard to that.

I am not sure that what the Senator is proposing is the right thing to do, but to be fair to her, I am giving a clear indication that I will reflect on her contribution. However, at this stage I do not propose to accept the amendments. I know Senator Power wants to move her amendment, so I will conclude.

I am sorry I had to leave to attend a meeting of the Committee on Procedure and Privileges, but I listened carefully to the debate before and after I left. Some substantive and eloquent points were made, as the Minister has acknowledged, and moving experiences recounted. This is an area that is moving. I re-read the joint committee report, the pre-legislative stage, which was just in January of last year. It recommended measures to address the concerns of transgender persons under 16 and looked at guidelines supporting inclusion of transgender young people in schools. It did not go beyond that in terms of the age of 16, but I know there had been a movement before that because originally the minimum age was 18, so I very much welcome that we did move below that to 16.

I read the report of the Ombudsman for Children of October 2013, which again recommended going below 18, and I am glad we followed that. It also recommended that 16 or 17 year olds should be able to apply without parental consent, but as far as I am aware it did not go below that. We need to examine the measures in section 11 to see if the procedures for 16 and 17 year olds are unduly cumbersome.

There are some positive moves. Subsection (6) requires the court to consider the best interests of the child. I agree with Senator van Turnhout that it is important that this be spelled out, and it is in section 11. Nor does section 11 require parental consent as an absolute, because there is a mechanism for a child who is 16 or 17 to go to the court to get an order dispensing with consent, but we need to consider whether it is still unduly cumbersome for the 16 or 17 year old. If we leave 16 as a minimum age, what measures are being put in place for those below the age of 16 if we are not going to allow for an exemption application to court? Are there other ways to support young people, particularly in the sort of examples we have spoken about in schools and so on? Should there be a legislative provision requiring schools to take account of a child's preferred gender even where there is no formal gender recognition? That is the kind of issue the debate has moved forward on, having come a distance already, which should be acknowledged.

I am glad the Minister will reflect on these issues. Today's debate, and even the contributions this afternoon, have raised a number of considerations for all of us.

Is the amendment being pressed?

I will withdraw it and re-table it on Report Stage.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Does that mean all the amendments are withdrawn?

I move amendment No. 3:

In page 5, line 25, to delete “Circuit” and substitute “District”.

This is a fairly simple amendment and may be less important than some of the more substantial amendments we will be dealing with. This is to advise the Minister that the Circuit Court should not have to deal with all of these cases and that the District Court, which is a more local court, might be a better forum in which to deal with them. The rationale is that the District Court has responsibility for hearing minor criminal matters, small civil claims, liquor licensing and certain family law applications. We are of the view that the District Court is sufficient for those family law hearings, and if it is, it is also sufficient for the provisions of this Bill.

Under the current provisions, an applicant would have to appeal any decision of the Circuit Court to the High Court. We would appreciate it if the Minister could revisit this, because there is a cost involved in appealing an issue to the High Court. It is a very difficult experience which would be unnecessary if people were able to make that application to a District Court.

I do not wish to interrupt my colleague, but what amendment are we on now? I am trying to-----

I have already said we are on amendment No. 3, in the name of Senator Cullinane and colleagues.

I have made my contribution.

I do not propose to accept this amendment. Throughout the preparation of this legislation, where a court process was deemed necessary, it was always considered appropriate for the court to be the Circuit Court sitting as the family court. The nature of the family court is appropriate to the confidential nature of the matter being considered.

With regard to the hearing of appeals from applicants for gender recognition certificates and the exemption of processes for 16 and 17 year olds, the level of the Circuit Court is appropriate due to the importance of these issues. Section 36 provides that the matter may be heard by a judge of the Circuit Court in the area in which the applicant concerned ordinarily resides. I am not accepting the amendment for the reasons outlined. I can forward this reply to the Senator if it would be helpful.

Is the amendment being pressed?

Amendment put and declared lost.

Amendments Nos. 4 to 6, inclusive, 12 and 13, 19 to 21, inclusive, and 29 are related. Amendment No. 13 is a physical alternative to No. 12. Amendments Nos. 20 and 21 are physical alternatives to No. 19. Amendments Nos. 4 to 6, inclusive, 12 and 13, 19 to 21, inclusive, and 29 may be discussed together by agreement. That is a bit of a mouthful.

I move amendment No. 4:

In page 6, between lines 2 and 3, to insert the following:

“ “general medical practitioner” means a medical practitioner who is registered in the Specialist Division of the register of medical practitioners under the medical speciality of “General Practice” or in the General Division of the register of medical practitioners;”.

I will speak to amendments Nos. 4 to 6, inclusive, and will leave other Senators to comment on the others. These amendments all relate to the effort to amend the Bill to include a general medical practitioner in the definition of the primary treating medical practitioner. Before I make a few arguments in that regard, because I have spoken about this previously, I want to say that this is not the ideal situation. Under international best practice and some of the best models of law, no form of medical certification is required to accompany a trans person's solemn and statutory declaration that they seek to live in their preferred gender identity. This is not a top-of-the-class type of amendment. It is a conservative amendment.

If a medical certificate is required to accompany a transperson's statement of intention, at the very least we should include a general medical practitioner as part of the definition of the primary treating practitioner. As the Minister of State knows, the Bill as currently formulated requires an endocrinologist or psychiatrist to certify that an applicant is transitioning or has transitioned to the applicant's preferred gender.

In Ireland the range of medical practitioners who may provide such certification is limited to a small number of specialists. This will lead to significant delays in obtaining appropriate certification. It will prove even more difficult for people who have undergone transition several years ago or abroad. Most transpersons I have spoken with do not have a regular treating endocrinologist or psychiatrist. These amendments would allow a person's GP to certify him or her as having met the requirements contained in sections 9 and 11 of the Act.

Where an applicant has a regular general practitioner, the GP will likely be more familiar with the applicant's current circumstances and situation, and will be well placed to provide the relevant certification for the applicant. The fact that the definition of the primary treating physician does not include a GP, is at odds with the HSE's view. The HSE has also put forward the view that a GP should be included in this definition, and that the language of the Bill without that is incongruent with current health practice. That is because a person's primary treating medical physician is almost always a GP.

The current emphasis on medical evaluation clearly suggests diagnosis, medical evidence and medical proof, and is restricted to the applicant. The HSE has also argued that if this legislation - concerning just the primary treating medical physician - draws solely on endocrinology and psychology, it will place excessive pressure on specialised and limited resources as the number of clinicians and health professionals with the relevant expertise in this jurisdiction is very small.

The HSE estimates that approximately 1,000 people will at some time, on the introduction of the legislation, seek a gender recognition certificate which will place unmanageable pressures on already scarce resources. That is the view of the HSE, in addition to my own view.

Hopefully, transpersons will be allowed to go to their GP. However, amendment No. 6, which is quite lengthy, is to ensure that the process for recognition is not made dependent on the applicant undergoing surgical, medical or psychiatric treatment, or an evaluation on physical or psychiatric grounds. The measure is simply to emphasise what the Minister of State has already confirmed, namely, that the applicant will not be required to undergo, or have undergone, any surgical or medical treatment, including hormonal or psychiatric treatment, as a precondition to gender recognition.

This amendment is simply codifying the ministerial promise. There is no legal guidance for medical professionals in filling out their form. If this kind of amendment, or a version of it, is not accepted I think that room will exist within the law for the medical person possibly to negate the human right to privacy and self-determination of the transperson, which should be at the heart of our legislation.

If indeed there is going to be a requirement for medical evaluation, then I would support the amendments tabled by Senator Zappone that it should include the GP as the person who has the most regular contact with a young person. From a young person's viewpoint, it will also be a much more supportive environment if the GP is somebody with whom he or she has had a professional relationship over an extended period, rather than seeing a stranger who is a specialist.

However, as I said on Second Stage, I strongly object to including a medical evaluation. In other jurisdictions, the transgender person is simply required to make a self-declaration. That is currently the case in Argentina and Denmark, while Malta is currently going towards self-declaration also. Requiring a medical diagnosis at all is, unfortunately and uncomfortably, similar to how we treated homosexual people in this country for a long time when homosexuality was treated as an illness.

We can argue what is, or is not, involved in requiring transgender people to go through a medical process. It is not clear from the words "medical" and "examination" what exactly that will entail and how intrusive the process will be before one can get somebody to sign the appropriate papers. It is unnecessarily stigmatising, however.

The process that is already provided for is restrictive and impractical because it only includes a small number of professionals, rather than general practitioners. I also think it is unnecessary. We have therefore tabled an amendment that gets rid of the medical evaluation altogether and ensures that we will trust people's own judgment instead. Transgender people themselves know better than anybody else what their preferred gender is and who they really are. We should listen to them and trust them instead of adopting a patronising approach, asking "Are you sure?", that seems to be consistent throughout this legislation.

Self-declaration should be sufficient and, if not, I would agree with at least changing the medical criteria and professionals involved to make the process as supportive as one can within the current framework.

I have tabled a simple amendment because I do not see any logical reason for including this provision. I want to delete the term "based on a medical evaluation of the applicant". By including such a provision we are inferring that transgender people are ill. They are not ill, far from it. They know exactly what they want. By including a psychiatrist, are we inferring that they have mental health issues?

I recall that years ago when people came out as gay, parents and others would say "Ah, they'll grow out of it", but it does not happen, as Senator Norris will tell us.

It has not happened to me yet and I am 70, but it is diminishing with every year.

I do not think that transgender people are going to grow out of it either.

Maybe I am growing out of it. Maybe I will be completely out of it by the time I am 95.

When Senator Norris and others came out, they certainly did not need a medical opinion to tell them they were gay.

I ask the Minister of State to accept this simple amendment, if he sees fit, because I do not see the logic for including the term it seeks to delete.

It is instructive that we have such a distinguished Member of the Government side speaking on this issue. I noted in my speech on Second Stage that there was no definition of "medical evaluation", which I thought would have been crucial for the correct operation of this Bill. I did not put one down because I do not approve of it at all. It seems to me that this is part of the "pathologisation" of the transgender situation. No less a person than the chair of TENI - the Transgender Equality Network Ireland - has said:

The requirement to provide a medical evaluation is diagnosis by any other name. The individuals who must sign off on the legislation are the very same individuals who provided diagnosis or medical treatment. This is restrictive and unnecessary. Transpersons are best placed to understand and identify their own gender, as they live it every day.

Everybody has been saying this for the last two hours, so I do not think there is anything really that remarkable or startling about it. Whether or not there is for the Irish public, generally speaking, in this Chamber we have accommodated ourselves to the idea. We are comfortable with it and understand the situation.

The whole idea of pathologisation involves linking gender identity to mental health. That is quite clear in the language contained in the legislation because it is conditional on a finding that somebody suffers from gender dysphoria. The words "dysphoria" and "dysfunction" suggest illness or a gender identity disorder. We are talking about requiring a medical diagnosis of a disorder or a pathology.

We have spoken a number of times this evening on the increasing pace of developments in this area. Six months ago on 1 September last year, Denmark's amended gender identity recognition procedures came into force. Under the gender recognition procedure, applicants simply complete an administrative process and supporting medical evidence is no longer required. In Malta, the Minister for Social Dialogue, Consumer Affairs and Civil Liberties introduced a new gender identity Bill on 29 October 2014. Under section 3(4) of the Gender Identity, Gender Expression and Sex Characteristics Act, applicants for recognition, "shall not be required to provide proof of a surgical procedure for total or partial genital reassignment, hormonal therapies or any other psychiatric, psychological or medical treatment to make use of the right to gender identity." That could not possibly be clearer. There is no requirement for medical evaluation either of a psychiatric or of a surgical nature. That is the way we should go.

I do not see any arguments have been raised against this. In addition, as far back as 2006, nine years ago, but in terms of the rapid progress in this area it is a long time ago because time, as Einstein thought, is relative, a group of internationally recognised human rights experts, including our own former President, Mary Robinson, once or perhaps twice a member of the Labour Party, and the Northern Ireland Human Rights Commissioner among other produced the Yogyakarta Principles. Under principle 3 it states that countries should fully respect and legally recognise each person's self-defined gender identity, there is no talk of medical procedures, and ensure that procedures exist whereby, "all State-issued identity papers which indicate a person’s gender/sex — including birth certificates, passports, electoral records and other documents — reflect the person’s profound self-defined gender identity". I will just refer to the words of Dr. Philip Crowley, the national director of quality and patient safety in the HSE, which were quoted by a number of Members on Second Stage because he states the same thing, namely, that people should self-define in this area of gender identity.

For all those reasons, I urge the Minister of State to take on board the substance of these amendments. There is a large number of amendments from which he can chose and modify before Report Stage. I will deal with the notion of medical diagnosis. As a gay man, I have been through this notion of medical diagnosis. In the beginning homosexuality was not spoken about at all. In the past it was a crime, then an illness and we have gone through the whole shebang but now it is recognised as part of the rich spectrum of human life. I think it is the same with gender identity. To pathologise it and make it dependent on a medical evaluation, clearly suggests it is an illness-----

-----and something that can be discerned by a doctor. One does not diagnose health, one diagnosis illness. To require a transsexual or transgender person to produce a medical diagnosis is clearly tantamount to saying he or she is ill. I do not think that is so. There was a stage when many people thought these people were, in the immortal words of former councillor Ned Brennan, "funny bunnies". We do not think that any longer. They are part of the spectrum of life and have exactly the same rights as everybody else.

It is quite offensive to look for medical evaluation and diagnosis. What has that got to do with anything?

Before Senator Bacik begins may I point out that in the remaining five minutes four more Members wish to speak on this amendment? I am not sure we will get all speakers in.

This group of amendments is all about the undue medicalisation and pathologising of transgender persons, which we were critical of on Second Stage and today. As others have done, I urge the Minister of State to accept the spirit in which these amendments were moved.

I wish to speak on amendment No. 13, tabled by my colleague, Senator Marie Moloney, which I fully support. To delete the words "based on a medical evaluation of the applicant" would tackle one of the most criticised aspects of the requirements of the procedures in section 9. If the Minister of State is minded to accept this amendment, he would also have to similarly amend sections 11 and 14 and delete line 14 on page 11, line 32 on page 11 and a phrase in lines 23 to 24 of page 15. There would be a number of consequent amendments where the phrase "based on a medical evaluation of the applicant" is used in other provisions in respect of sections 9, 11 and 14.

The key point of this amendment is to remove any suggestion that there would be a requirement that somebody would prove any of the points made by Senator Zappone in her amendment No. 6 to section 7. She states that people should not be required to provide evidence or proof of surgical procedures, etc. I think the spectre of that requirement is raised by the use of the phrase "medical evaluation". In my view that is something we should be looking to change.

I will be asked to report progress very soon, but I wish to address amendments Nos. 12 and 19, which have been tabled by Sinn Féin.

If it would be helpful I could reply now, which may help future contributors.

We will report progress, so I would reserve the right to come back later. I have no difficulty in giving way to the Minister of State.

May I add, there will be another person in the Chair?

The contributions have been very eloquent. I commend Senator Norris because he can make his point with good humour. It is always lively.

I do not propose to accept these amendments. Providing a new birth certificate is a significant and serious step. The purpose of this legislation is to recognise and validate people in their new gender. I accept that for most people, transitioning to their preferred gender, there is absolutely no doubt about their choice to live the rest of their life in their preferred gender.

The support statement would not require any information about the person's medical history or care pathway. That was emphasised by the Tánaiste and Minister for Social Protection, Deputy Joan Burton, when she was in this Chamber. The Department of Social Protection will use a standardised form for completion by the primary treatment physician, asking him or her to confirm that the person is transitioning or has transitioned and fully understands that the person will live in his or her preferred gender for the rest of his or her life.

Senators Norris and Moloney wish to remove the phrase "medical evaluation of the applicant". Concerns have been raised about this phrase in the Bill. I do not want there to be any confusion or misunderstanding about the validation process and the statement by the primary treating physician. I have been clear that the supporting statement will not require any information about the person's medical history or care pathway. I have discussed this with the Tánaiste who wants to ensure there will be no confusion on this point. She has raised it with her colleagues in Cabinet today. I am happy to say the Government will be tabling amendments on Report Stage along the lines put forward by Senator Moloney and others. My officials will be working with Parliamentary Counsel immediately to delete the phrase from section 9(1)(g)(ii).

As a consequence, amendments will be required on Report Stage. Several other consequential amendments will also be examined and I will revert to the House on Report Stage.

The change in the definition of primary treating physician is a significant and serious step by the State and for the persons concerned. The purpose of this legislation is to recognise and validate people in their new gender. I accept that for most transgender people there is absolutely no doubt about their preference to live their lives in their preferred gender.

I thank the Senator for her amendment, which is helpful. Senators Norris, Zappone and others have raised this issue with me privately and I hope that when we have drafted an amendment for Report Stage, they will be satisfied that it addresses the points they have raised. I expect that we will not meet all of their demands fully but-----

We are making progress.

I would like to think it is. I listened carefully to the debate and that is where this willingness to move has come from. The Tánaiste has also proposed it. I hope that is acceptable to Senators.

Progress reported; Committee to sit again.