Hong Kong's Legislative Council set to debate restrictive transgender bill
|Hong Kong's Legislative Council Building|
STAFF REPORTS | HONG KONG -- Lawmakers in Hong Kong are set to debate a draft bill that if passed may codify a pre-existing government policy that transgender people must undergo surgery to remove their genitals and construct new ones before they can qualify for legal recognition of their sex reassignment.
The bill to amend the city's marriage ordinance is the first action taken since last year's provincial Court of Final Appeal ruling that granted a male-to-female transgender person known only as W the right to wed her boyfriend.
"I am surprised they are doing this, because it flies in the face of indications by the city's highest court as to how the matter should be dealt with," said Michael Vidler, lawyer for W told the South China Morning Post.
"The judgment made it clear that Hong Kong's policies should be reviewed with an aim to comply with international human-rights standards, and to use the British Gender Recognition Act as a model," he said.
Britain does not require surgery and in 2004 set up a panel of legal and medical experts to hear applications and grant legal recognition on a case-by-case basis.
W's ability to marry her boyfriend would not be affected by the proposed law because she underwent full sex-reassignment surgery in 2008. Others, however, are reluctant to undergo such invasive surgery.
Kaspar Wan, a 35-year-old transgender man, told the South China Morning Post,
“I have heard of many cases of botched surgeries in Hong Kong. But despite the risks, transgender people feel pressured to get the surgery anyway. It amounts to forced sterilisation.”
Even as Hong Kong's Legislative Council readies to debate the issue on March 19, there are already divisions between council members over the law. Councilmember Dr. Priscilla Leung Mei-fun said she supported the bill. "Hong Kong is not a Western society and should not follow Britain's model, as this would lead to social chaos," she said.
However lawmaker Raymond Chan Chi-chuen noted that "The bill is so restrictive that I'm concerned it would create more problems than it would solve."
The Legislative Council is the unicameral legislature of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region of the People's Republic of China.