Transgender people in Hong Kong should be treated with dignity

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 10 August, 2016, 4:46pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 10 August, 2016, 9:17pm

Hong Kong is a signatory to numerous international human rights instruments, but its treatment of transgender people falls short of the prevailing international human rights norms.

Currently, transgender people who want to legally change their gender marker must undergo a series of psychiatric assessments and the completion of sex reassignment surgery. Such a practice not only unnecessarily pathologises transgender individuals but also subjects them to forced sterilisation which, in the view of Juan E. Méndez, United Nations Special Rapporteur on torture, “may constitute torture or ill-treatment”.

Additionally, the reliance on identity documents to determine one’s gender is causing unnecessary problems to many transgender individuals who are incarcerated, as you reported (“Transgender prisoners in Hong Kong suffer sexual assault, denial of hormones”, July 27).

Administrative convenience and the lack of gender identity laws can never be excuses for such a gross violation of the dignity and human rights of these individuals. It should be noted that in jurisdictions like British Columbia and Ontario in Canada, and New South Wales in Australia, there are no stand-alone gender recognition laws per se, but authorities there have adopted progressive measures that manage transgender inmates according to their gender identities.

If our government is genuinely interested in protecting the human rights and welfare of our transgender citizens, it must stop dragging its feet, and start devising policies that respect the bodily autonomy of transgender citizens. Specifically, policies should be based on respect for their dignity, as well as their physical and mental integrity.

We are living in the 21st century; there is no rationale to perpetuate gender binaries and stereotypes. We need to have a modern framework that helps transgender people live happily and in ways that suit their needs.

Jerome Yau, Happy Valley