Yesterday, June 18, 2015, the Justice and Security Committee of the Dutch Second Chamber held a debate on the need for gender registration.A parliamentary majority last week voted to do away with the requirement of it “where possible”. The minister promised to work to reduce the level of registration.
In an apparent global first, Dutch government agrees on the aim of abolishing gender registration where it is not needed in the public sphere. The debate – with only liberal and progressive parties present – was held in an open and understanding, solution oriented atmosphere, where the minister of Security and Justice said “Every minority counts for me”, thereby restricting the reason for the measures to the trans* and intersex population.
The Members of Parliament that were present all referred to the annoying and sometimes invalidating examples of having to show a gendered ID on the train when not looking like the conductor expects from your gender marker. Or buying a drink in the bar, looking young, showing your ID and then be publicly laughed at for not looking masculine enough. Initially used as examples of the trouble the wrong gender marker brings, he examples are now taken as an indication the trouble any marker can bring and led to the question whether there is any need for the controlling company or state institution to know the person’s gender or genital layout.
Parties insisted it should be possible for the individual to choose whether to be addressed by gender (and which then) or not. A motion by Groen Links (the Dutch Greens) to abolish gender registration on the birth certificate was met with surprise and lack of understanding: parents want their child to be registered with a gender! The idea that gender registration at birth was never meant to please parents but served a greater interest to be able to call the able-bodies men to arms, never really led to the conclusion that this measure is antiquated and ripe for striking, since we don’t have compulsory attendance anymore. Abolishing this most fundamental registration of all, appears to be a bridge too far. Understandable since few convincingly advocate for a less patriarchal society.
The minister’s argument calling for civil society to change the behaviour of commercial entities in gendering customers was not generally met with agreement. Groen Links was adamant in telling the minister that the state should practice what it preaches and propagate the principles of the law.
While the debate was very open, it became clear during the interventions that there were no clear thoughts on what is meant by sex or gender registration, or what constitutes a legitimate need. Classical examples are issues like labour equality between men and women, mama carcinoma research, prison service, population research. Whilst the concerns are serious and without addressing lead to several important political deficiencies, none of these examples are adequate for arguing the need of registration preservation. Medical issues should be regarded by body type, having certain physical characteristics like which reproductive organs, which chromosomes, familiar anamnesis, as also the medical world actually does not have one definition for what they call sex. Most other issues can bes checked on the basis of self-identification. The example of prisoners also requires social role, not gender marker in some ID document. The fear for ‘predators’ is misplaced and naive, as if in same-sex facilities no harassment takes place, and as if lack of gender marker automatically ‘abolishes’ all social gender roles. With a bit of creativity a solution for everything can be found.
Politics by the way is not opposed to introducing a gender neutral option in registration, some are pretty much in favour even. But in case they want to do this in the birth registry, they may case more trouble than they foresee.
Concrete demands by the MP’s present are: research the need for gender registration on all levels, make registered data available on need-to-know basis (and exercise scrutiny in that). The minster is wiling to take care of some short-term solutions and wants to start research into the consequences of removing the requirement of gender registration.. Voting for the proposed measures is expected in two weeks.