Number of requests to change sex on birth certificates revealed

A minister's decision to halt a proposed law for changing sex on birth certificates was met with controversy last month however Newshub can reveal that only a small number of people actually applied for it last year. 

The Department of Internal Affairs confirmed to Newshub under the Official Information Act that just over 30 people in New Zealand requested to have their sex changed on their birth certificate in 2018. 

"The Department [of Internal Affairs] can confirm that 32 requests were received in 2018 from people who wished to have their sex changed on their New Zealand birth certificate."

Proposed changes to the Births, Deaths, Marriages and Relationships Registration Bill would have allowed people to change the sex on their birth certificate based on how they identify themselves - removing the need for medical evidence. 

But the changes were put on hold last month by Internal Affairs Minister Tracey Martin who said more input was needed from the public before the Government could move on the Bill, which had self-identification clauses added at Select Committee. 

Newshub approached Martin for comment, but a spokesperson referred back to the minister's press release and Crown Law Opinion, which stated a "number of legal issues may benefit from further policy consideration before the Bill proceeds". 

Internal Affairs Minister Tracey Martin.
Internal Affairs Minister Tracey Martin. Photo credit: Newshub Nation

The New Zealand First MP said in her statement last month that the changes were too radical to go ahead without additional feedback, given the current Family Court process requires evidence of medical treatment before sex can be changed on a birth certificate. 

"There are also wider legal implications of changing to a self-identification system that need further consideration. The Crown Law Office have provided advice that the self-identification clauses would benefit from clarification."

Gender Minorities Aotearoa National Coordinator Ahi Wi-Hongi told Newshub the number of people applying to change the gender marker on their birth certificate would likely increase with a simplified statutory declaration mode, to be more in line with that of passports. 

New Zealanders can already choose to have a different gender marker on driver licences by applying to the New Zealand Transport Agency. The same applies to passports, even without the need to amend the details on birth certificates or citizenship records. 

The Crown Law Office highlighted that, saying there is "no necessary legal connection" between the sex recorded on a birth certificate, and the sex recorded on other identity documents - essentially arguing that it is pointless. 

However, the Crown Office said it "readily accept that a person would prefer to have their sex recorded consistently across their birth certificate, travel documents and/or citizenship certificate". 

A Gender Minorities Aotearoa poster promoting the Births, Deaths, Marriages and Relationships Registration Bill.
A Gender Minorities Aotearoa poster promoting the Births, Deaths, Marriages and Relationships Registration Bill. Photo credit: Gender Minorities Aotearoa

Wi-Hongi questioned the need for more consultation on the Bill, telling Newshub the 22 submissions from the public in opposition to the self-ID clause "could not have been made if the public were unaware of that clause and were not consulted". 

"We know that the initial process was a standard Select Committee process, and we don't believe that the current path is standard process," she said. 

"However, we hope to see the various [government] departments recognising that human rights must prevail in a timely manner, and for trans people this is decades overdue.

"We are hopeful that rather than delaying the process overall, they're willing to tweak policies within their respective departments if needed - as the Department of Corrections has indicated it is poised to do."