Parliament rejects MFP’s gender recognition bill

Parliament on Wednesday (21 February) voted to reject the Move Forward Party (MFP)’s Gender Recognition bill, which proposed to allow trans and non-binary people to change gender markers on their official documents to match their identity.

Participants in the 4 June 2023 Pride Parade holding trans pride flags. (File photo)

During the session, Pheu Thai MP Akaranun Khankittinan asked the MFP to withdraw the bill to wait for other bills on the same subject to be introduced to parliament. MFP MP Tanyawaj Kamolwongwat replied that other sectors can participate in the legislative process in committee. He also asked the Cabinet whether the Ministry of Social Development and Human Security (MDES) had made any progress in drafting their own gender recognition bill, noting that calls for the bill have been made since 2016.

With 154 votes for and 257 votes against, parliament rejected the bill. Tanyawaj said after the vote that the rejection means MFP will not be allowed to propose another bill on the same subject to parliament during the current session, but the party will try again in the next session.

“Are you going to give rights to LGBTQ people or not? Whether it is specifically designed welfare, many other laws that must be inclusive of diversity, or eliminating discrimination, are you still going to do it?” He asked.

“The Move Forward Party stands with LGBTQ people. We will definitely keep going, because we know we have to fight for it.”

Called the Gender Recognition, Gender Titles, and Protection of Gender Diversity Bill, it would allow trans and non-binary people to change gender markers on their official documents, provided that they are Thai citizens who have not been charged with or convicted of sexual crimes or human trafficking and are not listed in an international crime database on sexual offences or human trafficking. If the person requesting gender recognition is under 18 years of age, they would need to submit a certificate from a psychiatrist and or obtain parental consent.

Under this bill, trans people would be able to change their gender marker to match their identity, while non-binary people would be free to use the marker “Gender Diverse.”

The bill would also protect the rights of trans and non-binary people to healthcare, labour protection, abortion, and the use of public space as the gender they are recognised as. It would require the Department of Corrections to detain a trans person who has undergone gender confirmation surgery at a facility that matches their gender identity  Trans people who have not undergone surgery would be detained at facilities in accordance with the gender they were assigned at birth. Non-binary people would also be detained at facilities in accordance with their birth genders but would be segregated to assure their safety.

The bill would prohibit doctors from performing sex selective surgery on intersex babies. Parents would also be prohibited from authorising such surgery, unless they had been advised by a doctor that the procedure was needed to save the child’s life. Birth certificates of intersex children would not list their gender.  Instead, they would have the right to choose a gender marker when they turn 7, or 15 if they have not done so earlier. They would also be able to request a court order to change to their gender marker after they had already chosen one.

The bill lists penalties for filing false documents and issuing false certificates, as well as for changing gender markers to avoid military conscription, or receive benefits under women’s rights or gender equality promotion schemes.

A civil society network has also launched a petition to introduce a gender recognition bill to parliament. Called the Recognition of Gender Identity, Gender Expression, and Sex Characteristic Bill, or “GEN-ACT” for short, it would give people 15 years or older the right to change their gender markers without requiring medical transition, such as gender confirmation surgery, hormonal treatment, or any psychiatric treatment. Registration officials would be prohibited from requesting medical certificates or documentation beyond whatever is stipulated by the bill and subsequent ministerial regulations. Children younger than 15 would be permitted to change their gender markers with the consent of their parents or legal guardians, or by a court order if the parent or guardian does not give consent.

It would allow non-binary or intersex people to use the gender-neutral marker Other/X and not be required to place a gendered title before their name, as well as prohibit sex selective surgery to be performed on intersex children without the child’s consent through a legal representative.

As of 23 February, the petition has 11,073 signatures, therefore meeting the legal requirement of 10,000 signatures for it to be introduced to parliament.

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