Calls for clarity grow: How will sex self-ID impact human rights?

Wellington, 19 January 2019 – Campaign group Speak Up For Women is calling on David Parker to fulfil his obligation as New Zealand’s Attorney-General by clarifying how sex self-ID will impact the human rights of women and girls.

A bill proposing controversial changes to the Births, Deaths, Marriages and Relationships Recognition Act is due for its second reading when Parliament reconvenes in February.  

If passed into law, it will enable anyone to change the sex on their birth certificate by making a simple statutory declaration that they “identify” as a member of the opposite sex.  

Critics of the Bill have concerns that sex self-ID will erode the hard-won protections for females that are enshrined in the Human Rights Act, such as single-sex facilities, services and sport.   

Where legislation potentially conflicts with human rights, the Attorney-General has a special obligation to raise the issue with Parliament when the bill is first introduced. However, because the controversial sex self-ID provisions (clauses 22A-J) were added later during the Select Committee stage, the opportunity to properly assess their impact has been neglected.

Ani O’Brien, Speak Up For Women spokesperson says, ““The legal implications of sex self-ID are uncertain and we have seen nothing to suggest that that the government has even considered the impact on women’s sex-based human rights protections, despite this issue being front and centre of the sex self-ID debate in the United Kingdom.”  

Andrew Little, Justice Minister, acknowledged the need to review the Human Rights Act to specifically address gender identity, in comments he made at United Nations Universal Periodic Review (UPR) before the United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva on Monday night (New Zealand time).

Ms O’Brien said “we welcome a review of the Human Rights Act to bring clarity on the distinction between, and currently conflicting rights of, biological sex and gender identity. In the meantime, as the sex self-ID provision remains in the BDMRR Bill, the Attorney-General must act immediately to clarify how this impacts existing sex-based rights in the Human Rights Act or put the sex self-ID clause on hold until there is this clarity within the Human Rights Act.

Speak Up For Women wrote to the Attorney-General again on 19 December, and is waiting for a response.

In the United Kingdom, pressure from women’s groups led to the Equality and Human Rights Commission changing its guidance to make it clear that single-sex provision will continue to be protected, and the government has also confirmed its commitment to maintaining existing protections for women and girls.  

Ms O’Brien says: “We call upon the Attorney-General to make a similar commitment.”   


About Speak Up For Women   

Speak Up For Women is a diverse group of ordinary New Zealanders – including teachers, academics, health professionals, care workers, activists, lawyers and students – with a shared concern about the impact of sex self-ID on the rights of women and girls. The group was formed to raise public awareness of the proposed changes to the BDMRRA which are currently passing unchallenged through Parliament.   


Notes to the editor:  

  1. Speak Up For Women’s letter to the Attorney-General of 19 December 2018
  2. Andrew Little’s speech – see 18:22 for Gender Identity comment:
  3. The latest UK Equality and Human Rights Commission position on sex self-ID:
  4. UK Equalities Office confirms commitment to single-sex provision:
  5. Conflicting statements by government MPs to date have only added to the confusion: Jan Logie has said on social media saying that the Bill is just about ensuring consistency with driver licenses and passports, and won’t take anything away from anyone else.  But Louisa Wall describe it as a ‘profound change’ and Marama Davidson has ‘liked’ a comment on Twitter suggesting that a trans woman with a birth certificate is entitled to access single sex facilities. The issues really need clarifying and, as the chief law officer, the Attorney-General has that responsibility.
  1. I really hope that David Parker recognises his responsibility on this issue, and that the government does a proper risk assessment for Self ID before passing it into law. They owe women that much after allowing government MPs to villify any woman who has raised legimate concerns over this proposal.


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