Transgender people increasingly turn to the Ombudsman for Equality

Transgender people increasingly turn to the Ombudsman for Equality

Provisions regarding discrimination against gender minorities and promotion of equal status for them in society must be entered in the Equality Act. This point was made by Pirkko Mäkinen, the Ombudsman for Equality, in her speech at the TransHelsinki seminar on Saturday, 20 November 2010.

"In addition to a discrimination prohibition, gender minorities should also be added to the provisions concerning affirmative action that apply to the authorities, to working life and to educational institutions. Gender minorities must be broadly recognised in law so that these provisions will apply to all transgender and intergender people," Mäkinen said.

A bill amending the Equality Act is proposed to be submitted to Parliament after the election.

In recent years, promoting the status of gender minorities and preventing discrimination against them has become an important part of the work of the Ombudsman for Equality. Transgender people have discovered the services of the Ombudsman and have contacted the Office with inquiries concerning compensation practices of the Social Insurance Institution (KELA), dressing rooms and washrooms at public swimming baths and sports facilities, and replacement of employment and study certificates. The Ombudsman for Equality has already learned a great deal from transgender people, and the process continues.

"The experiences of members of gender minorities say a lot about how gender is viewed in our society and give concrete meaning to gender identity and attitudes towards its expression. You are clearing the way for a more open and tolerant society for all of us," Mäkinen said in her speech.

The human rights of gender minorities have also been recently highlighted in several international contexts. Issues include disease classifications, the definition of gender minorities in legislation, requirements for the infertility of gender minorities, replacements for official documents (passport, personal identity number, driving licence, degree certificates, employment certificates, and so on) and couples. Harassment, bullying and hate crimes against gender minorities have also been studied.

In 2011, gender minorities will constitute an area of focus for the Ombudsman for Equality. A seminar will be held on the subject in May 2011. The speakers will include a representative of the Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights. The aim of the seminar is to gain up-to-date information on the human rights situation in Europe, for instance as background information on the amendment to the Equality Act now in preparation.

The Ombudsman for Equality is an authority whose principal duty is to enforce compliance with the Equality Act. In addition, the Ombudsman for Equality supervises the implementation of protection of sexual minorities against discrimination.