Transgender and intersex groups have slammed the government’s inter-departmental working group for gender recognition over its lack of transparency and for repeatedly delaying the publication of its consultation paper.

The government set up the Inter-departmental Working Group on Gender Recognition in 2014 following the landmark case of W, in which the city’s highest court ruled that a person who had undergone male-to-female sex reassignment surgery was allowed to marry a man.

Photo: Press release.

The working group was set up to consider legislation and administrative measures to protect the rights of transsexual persons and make recommendations for reform. It is led by Secretary for Justice Rimsky Yuen.

The group said at a Legislative Council committee meeting in April 2014 that it hoped to be able to produce an initial report on its work in about two years, and Yuen said in July that the working group was drafting a consultation paper which would be published as early as possible within the year. The goal of the consultation paper is to seek the views of the public on recognition issues such as gender dysphoria and a possible gender recognition scheme.

Gender dysphoria refers to a condition where one’s psychological and emotional identity as male or female is opposite to one’s biological sex. Intersex is a term used for conditions whereby a person is born with a sexual or reproductive anatomy that do not fit the typical definitions of female or male.

Photo: Dan Garrett.

But the publication of the paper has been delayed again and again, the groups said, and its progress would be affected by the reshuffling of officials in the new administration.

Groups involved include the Pink Alliance, a network of LGBT advocacy and cultural organisations, the Transgender Resource Center, The Association of World Citizens, and Beyond the Boundary, an intersex concern group.

They urged the government working group to set a definite timetable for its paper and the establishment of a gender recognition law, consider the legal problems faced by intersex people – who are not included in the scope of the working group – and publicise meeting records, increase transparency, and invite stakeholders to become members.

Rimsky Yuen Kwok-keung. File photo: GovHK.

Joanne Leung, chair of Pink Alliance and the Transgender Resource Center, said: “If there is no ‘gender recognition law’ to address all legal definitions regarding gender after the victory in the transgender marriage case, this will only lead to confusion in society and even more judicial reviews. And mandatory surgery will also cause some who want to undergo gender reassignment to not be able to fulfill their wishes due to their physical conditions.”

Small Luk, founder of Beyond the Boundary, urged the government to also consider the challenges faced by intersex people when it considers amending the laws.

The Association of World Citizens also raised concerns that transgender people may not be protected under Hong Kong law, which defines rape as a man having sexual intercourse with a woman without her consent.

Catherine Lai

Catherine is a Canadian journalist and photographer who lived in Beijing for almost two years, working in TV and online media. Aside from Hong Kong and mainland affairs, she is also interested in urban spaces, art and feminism. She holds a BA in Literature and Art History from the University of British Columbia.