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Individual rights & freedoms

Human rights and discrimination

Overview

It is your legal right to be, and publicly identify as, any gender or sex in your everyday life and interactions with others, no matter what sex you were assigned when you were born.

This might mean using a name that’s different from the one you were given at birth, presenting yourself and dressing in a way that feels comfortable, and asking people to use pronouns (for example, “he/him,” “she/her,” or “they/them”) that feel right to you.

There is no legal standard for “proving” what your sex is in New Zealand. There are limited circumstances where people can ask for specific evidence about your identity, and only if it’s relevant to the service they are providing. There are also some limited circumstances where discrimination is legally allowed, but these are only in specific situations. See: “Discrimination” for more about exceptions to anti-discrimination laws.

If you’re asked for proof of your gender or sex

Human Rights Act 1993, ss 42, 44 Official Information Act 1982, s 12

Government and private organisations can ask you to provide proof of your identity when you’re dealing with them, but you shouldn’t be asked to provide more proof than a cisgender person.

If you think an organisation is treating transgender and cisgender people differently and want to take action, you could ask to see the organisation’s policy for asking for proof of identity. If they are breaching the policy, or if they have an unfair policy, you can use this information to complain to the Human Rights Commission.

If the organisation is a public service, you can ask for the information formally under the Official Information Act 1982 (see: “Getting information from the government”). If you’re dealing with a private business, getting their policies can be more difficult, because there are different rules about what information they have to make publicly available. For support you can contact your local Community Law Centre.

Gendered uniforms

Human Rights Act 1993, ss 57, 58

Schools and workplaces can require you to wear a uniform or to follow a dress code. You have the right to dress in the uniform or dress code of the gender or sex you are, and you shouldn’t have to provide proof of your sex to do so.

Uniforms at school can be assigned as male or female as long as the effect of the different uniforms isn’t discriminatory. For example, if boys can wear shorts or pants but girls have to wear long skirts that limit their physical movement, this could be illegal discrimination.

If you aren’t male or female, the law is less clear. You could ask for an appropriate middle-ground uniform in line with these anti-discrimination rules.

You should not be required to wear some third option if you don’t want to. This is true at school, work, and in any other areas of public life.

Gendered toilets

New Zealand Bill of Rights Act 1990, ss 5, 19 Human Rights Act 1993, s 57 Health and Safety at Work Act 2015, s 36  Education and Training Act 2020, s 127

You should never have to show proof of your gender or sex to use the right bathroom. This includes at school or work.

If you aren’t comfortable in a gendered toilet at school or work – for example, if you are non-binary – a gender-inclusive toilet might be more suitable. If your school or workplace doesn’t have one, you could request that they install this option. This could be instead of, or as well as, gendered toilets.

Rainbow Rights has information on how to request gender-inclusive toilets, here (or go to rainbowrights.nz and search: “What are my rights if I am denied access to the toilet or changing rooms that align with my gender identity?”).

Schools and workplaces aren’t legally required to provide gender-inclusive toilets. However, they do have to take reasonable steps to make sure the environment is safe for you. When making a request, you could explain that an appropriate bathroom would help with making your school or work a safe, gender-inclusive environment.

Sports

You’re allowed to participate in community sport as the gender or sex you are. Sports New Zealand guidelines say you shouldn’t have to prove or justify your gender or sex to be involved in community sports in New Zealand, even when there are different teams for men and women.

All sport and recreation organisations should have policies designed to support trans sportspeople. Sports NZ has information about what these policies should look like, here (or go to sports.org.nz and search: “Transgender inclusion”).

These guidelines apply to sport at a community level. Professional sport policies are usually set at an international level. If you are playing sport professionally, you may be asked for more information about your gender or sex.

Having a child

The law used to be unclear about trans or queer people having the right to adopt children or use a sperm or egg donor. Now, anti-discrimination laws make sure you have the same rights as a cis person. For more information, see: “Adoption”.

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Gender and sexuality

Where to go for more support

Legal information

“Lag Law: Your Rights Inside Prison and on Remand” booklet

This booklet contains practical answers to common questions relating to prisoner rights, including transgender rights in prison. A useful guide for people going to prison, in prison, or getting out of prison and their whānau.

Community Law Wellington and Hutt Valley

Phone: (04) 499 2928

Email: publications@wclc.org.nz

Visit www.communitylaw.org.nz to buy a copy or access free

Rainbow Rights

www.rainbowrights.nz

Rainbow Rights is a website developed by Rainbow Youth and YouthLaw (a Community Law Centre) to provide legal information about rights for LQBTIQ young people.

Legislation NZ

www.legislation.govt.nz

This has all of New Zealand’s current Acts and regulations.

Law Society

To find a lawyer

www.lawsociety.org.nz

(04) 472 7837

Gender Minorities Aotearoa

www.genderminorities.com

Phone: (04) 385 0611

Mobile: 02040492568

GMA maintains a national database of transgender, takatāpui, and intersex information, resources, and links.

InsideOUT

www.insideout.org.nz

0273314507

InsideOUT is a national organisation that provides workshops, resources and support to help make schools, community organisations and workplaces inclusive for rainbow people.

Rainbow Youth

www.ry.org.nz

(09) 376 4155

RainbowYOUTH provides a number of services for queer and gender-diverse youth and their wider communities all across Aotearoa.

Genderbridge

www.facebook.com/groups/genderbridge/

Genderbridge is a peer-to-peer transgender community organisation providing support to transgender and gender-diverse people, their whānau and friends throughout Aotearoa New Zealand.

Naming NZ

www.naming.nz

Naming NZ is an organisation to help transgender, gender-diverse and intersex youth with updating their identity documents to correctly reflect their sex and gender. Naming NZ can only provide financial assistance to youth in the Wellington region.

Government departments, agencies and courts

Department of Internal Affairs

www.dia.govt.nz

0800 25 78 87

The Department of Internal Affairs processes applications to legally change your name.

Family Court

www.justice.govt.nz/courts/family-court

0800 268 787 or (04) 918 8800

The Family Court make decisions about applications to change your sex on your birth certificate.

Oranga Tamariki / Ministry for Children

International Surrogacy – Fact sheet

www.orangatamariki.govt.nz/assets/Uploads/Adoptions/Surrogacy-and-adoption/2020-Information-Fact-Sheet-International-Surrogacy.pdf

Human Rights Commission

www.hrc.co.nz

You can contact the Human Rights Commission if you want to know more about discrimination and human rights, or if you want to complain about discrimination:

0800 496 877 or text 0210 236 4253

infoline@hrc.co.nz

“To Be Who I Am”, 2007 Report of the Inquiry into Discrimination Experienced by Transgender People is available on the HRC website

Human Rights Commission Intersex Roundtable

www.hrc.co.nz

NZ Transport Agency

www.nzta.govt.nz

0800 822 422

The NZTA deals with changes to drivers’ licences, including changing your name or gender on your driver’s licence.

Ministry of Health

Guidance for health professionals

www.health.govt.nz/our-work/preventative-health-wellness/delivering-health-services-transgender-people

Gender affirming surgery

www.health.govt.nz/your-health/healthy-living/transgender-new-zealanders/health-care-transgender-new-zealanders

Health and Disability Advocacy Service

www.advocacy.org.nz

The Health and Disability Advocacy Service can provide a free advocate to help you make a complaint about a health or disability service.

Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment

Guide about Transgender Employees

www.employment.govt.nz/starting-employment/hiring/discrimination-when-hiring/transgender-employees/

Department of Corrections

Placement of transgender prisoners

You can read their policy (Movements M.03.05) relating to placement of transgender prisoners on their website, at:

www.corrections.govt.nz/resources/policy_and_legislation/Prison-Operations-Manual.html

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