Proposal for full sex change surgery before marriage allowed ‘unnecessary’

Equal opportunities chief says demand would deter transgender people

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 02 April, 2014, 12:37pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 03 April, 2014, 4:49am

A proposed legal change that would force transgender people to have full sex-change surgery before they can marry is inappropriate and unnecessary, the anti-discrimination chief says.

Equal Opportunities Commission head Dr York Chow Yat-ngok said the clause in the Marriage (Amendment) Bill - introduced after a court overturned a ban on transgender marriages - would in fact deter such people from seeking to marry.

"It would be unfair to impose such an invasive medical procedure as a legal prerequisite for marriage, which is supposed to be an equal right," he said.

Transsexual "W", who won the right to marry her male fiancé in a landmark case in the Court of Final Appeal in May last year, had undergone the surgery.

However, the court left open the question of whether surgery should be a prerequisite for marriage.

Chow said up to 60 to 70 per cent of transgender people did not go through the extremely invasive and difficult medical procedure that brought massive changes to a person's body.

"To say [a person] must complete the whole gender reassignment surgery to be allowed to marry, will probably deter more transgender people from being able to get married," Chow said, adding that there was no need to amend marriage laws in "such a stringent way".

"Instead of writing in an explicit legal requirement for full sex reassignment surgery, the bill should seek to alter existing administrative practices," he said in a radio interview.

It had been proposed that Hong Kong follow the UK's Gender Recognition Act, where a panel is set up to assess applications for gender recognition.

It considers a number of factors, including gender dysphoria - the psychological condition also known as gender identity disorder - and whether a person has been living as their identified gender for two years or more.

Chow said Hong Kong needed a comprehensive gender recognition ordinance.

He was concerned that if the bill was passed before gender recognition and anti-discrimination policies and laws were in place then there would be a period where sexual minorities were not protected and not given equal rights.

Last month, the Legislative Council held the first reading of the Marriage (Amendment) Bill, introduced to implement the Court of Final Appeal's ruling in the "W" case.