Rainbow Path’s concerns and hopes for the BDMRR Act

A trans person writing a submission with three posters behind them that say "Yes to BDMRR".
Artist: Huriana Kopeke-Te Aho’s illustration for the Counting Ourselves report

The Births, Deaths, Marriages and Relationships Registration (BDMRR) Bill returns to Parliament this week. Trans asylum seekers, refugees and migrants are some of the groups most often asked to show a photo ID to prove their immigration status in Aotearoa. Yet they are currently excluded from the Bill’s provisions. It’s not too late to commit to addressing this gap.

Rainbow Path’s recommendations about the BDMRR Act

Rainbow Path made a written and private oral submission in support of the Select Committee Inquiry into  Supplementary Order Paper 59 but also noted significant gaps left by the proposed changes to the Births, Deaths, Marriages and Relationships Registration Act 1995.

The need for a NZ Identity document with the correct name and gender marker has become even more important now that we have Vaccine Passes. People are likely to be asked more often to show a photo ID to verify that the Vaccine Pass they present belongs to them. This will be another barrier for trans and intersex people whose overseas IDs have the wrong name and/or gender marker. 

In our submissions, and the wider campaign supported by Gender Minorities Aotearoa, Rainbow Path made three related recommendations. These were to ensure that all trans and non-binary people born overseas can access a New Zealand ID with their correct name and gender, through a simple administrative process based on self-determination. Specifically, we recommended that:

  1. permanent residents, who currently can amend these details, should retain that right – but with a simplified process too.
  2. trans asylum seekers and Convention refugees on temporary visas should be able to obtain a document with these correct details, such as a Certificate of Identity or Refugee Travel document issued by the Department of Internal Affairs or Immigration NZ and
  3. migrants on temporary visas should be able to get some form of New Zealand ID as well. 

What did the Select Committee recommend?

Rainbow Path was really glad to see this first recommendation in the Select Committee’s report:

  • “That the Government commit to pursuing a solution that would allow overseas-born New Zealanders to register a nominated sex, and to carrying out further consultation with relevant individuals and groups to this end.”

Does this recommendation include asylum seekers or refugees?

It is very unclear to Rainbow Path whether this recommendation includes all overseas-born New Zealanders, specifically asylum seekers and refugees and migrants who are here on temporary or time-bound visas. 

We are very concerned that this may exclude asylum seekers and refugees at the point when they are most vulnerable to discrimination and struggle to open a bank account, find accommodation or get work without a usable identity document.

Our concerns are because:

  • There is no mention of asylum seekers and refugees in the Select Committee’s report and
  • in the Department of Internal Affairs’ report to the Select Committee its advice around the Select Committee’s first recommendation was focused solely on New Zealand citizens and permanent residents born overseas. 

What did the Department of Internal Affairs advise the Select Committee about asylum seekers and refugees?

The Department’s report specifically notes that “expanding access to documentation beyond citizens and permanent residents is beyond the scope of the Act”. It does note, however, that:

  • “Work is already underway with Immigration New Zealand at an operational level to address how best to assist transgender asylum seekers (who are on timebound visas) with gender recognition documentation while they await confirmation of refugee status (and thereafter permanent residency).”

Rainbow Path is aware of that work because it has resulted from our continued advocacy for nearly three years, and has required multiple letters to Ministers and departmental officials. Now is a vital opportunity for the government to signal a commitment to addressing these concerns within the same time frame as the regulations being developed to support this Bill.

This will require thinking outside the restrictions of current policy settings or interpretations. Legal gender recognition should be available to any trans or intersex person in Aotearoa, whatever their immigration status. That is the international human rights obligation set out in the Yogyakarta Principle 31 and the practical step needed to ensure all trans or intersex people here can navigate everyday life with safety, dignity and respect.

Why this is even more important due to COVID-19

Trans asylum seekers and refugees without accurate identity documents are one of the groups struggling to obtain a Vaccine Pass that they can safely use. This highlights yet again why trans and intersex people born overseas need a New Zealand identity document with their correct name, photo and gender marker.

Rainbow Path has recommended that trans and intersex asylum seekers and Convention refugees should be able to self-identity their name and gender on Certificates of Identity and Refugee Travel documents. This is an important interim step, as these may be the only NZ photo IDs that some asylum seekers and refugees can obtain.

However, there is very limited recognition of these documents in Aotearoa, even though they are official NZ travel documents. For example, they aren’t included as documents you can use to sign up for My COVID record.  If they are not listed as accepted forms of official IDs there, it’s even less likely that they will be accepted by venues and service providers.

Rainbow Path has asked the Government to:

  • clarify that the work signalled in the first recommendation in the Select Committee’s report covers any trans or intersex person born overseas who is living in Aotearoa and
  • commit to introducing legal gender recognition solutions for trans and intersex asylum seekers, refugees and migrants between now and when amendments to the Births, Deaths, Marriages and Relationships Registration Act 1995 commence in 2023.

Rainbow Path members will be glued to our screens when the Bill returns to Parliament this week. We hope that this will be a moment that all of our trans and intersex communities can celebrate. Rainbow Path welcomes any opportunities to work meaningfully with Ministers, government officials and other trans and intersex community organisations to achieve legal gender recognition for us all.

The Select Committee report covers other issues raised by submitters too. Gender Minorities Aotearoa has written this blog analysing the Select Committee’s responses to the key points made in their submission.

Three images of a Vaccine Pass
Vaccine pass images from covid19.govt.nz

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