UK ‘should strip’ gender from passports


Tory MP Maria Miller has called for official documentation including passports and driving licences to be gender-neutral.
LONDON — People’s gender should be removed from official documents, such as passports and driving licences, in a bid to end transgender discrimination, a Conservative member of parliament has said.
Maria Miller — chair of the new Women and Equalities Select Committee — called for the Government to “strip back” talking about gender unless it was essential. In an interview withThe Times, the former cabinet minister stated that de-gendering official documents could help people transitioning who have not yet obtained a gender recognition certificate; a document that is only issued in the UK once gender reassignment surgery has taken place.“For individuals who have decided to transition but haven’t necessarily got the right documentation, [having to officially state gender] can cause problems,” Miller told The Times.

“Why do we need gender on our driving licence? Why do we have to have it on our passport if it doesn’t really add to identification? It’s not relevant. Australia has decided to de-gender their passports,” she said.

Miller also added that gender-neutral documents could be just as beneficial to cis women, and that “male” and “female” tick-boxes on job applications should be removed unless necessary.

“If we are going to help girls who are coming through our education system not to be hampered by gender stereotypes then we have to look at these things,” Miller said.

“There’s so much we can do in the job application process to make the playing field level and in university applications as well.

We’ve got to tackle the unconscious bias in the system.”

We’ve got to tackle the unconscious bias in the system.”Responding to Miller’s remarks, the Liberal Democrat leader Tim Farron said his party had lobbied for the de-gendering of official documents during the coalition government’s term in office.

“It is frankly ridiculous that even on something this small the Tories have refused to act over the last few years,” Farron told the BBC.

The committee is due to publish a report on transgender equality next week.

A spokesperson for the Women and Equalities Select Committee told Mashable: “We cannot say very much about Ms Miller’s comments until the report is published next week.”

A spokesperson for LGBT rights group Stonewall told Mashable:

For trans people, having male and female gender markers on official documents can cause difficult and distressing situations, especially as there remains a widespread lack of awareness and understanding of different trans identities. There is a common misconception that all trans people will take medical steps to change their gender. There is also a lack of awareness around non-binary identities, those who may not identify as ‘male’ or ‘female’, but might consider themselves to be neither, both, or to be sometimes male and sometimes female. We therefore welcome the Women and Equalities Select Committee inquiry into Transgender Equality and look forward to hearing its recommendations.



Saudi Arabia-Iran row: Bahrain, Sudan and UAE act against Tehran

Bahraini protesters hold pictures of Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr in Daih, Bahrain, 3 Jan

A number of nations allied to Saudi Arabia have joined diplomatic action against Iran, amid a row over the Saudi execution of a Shia Muslim cleric.

Bahrain has cut ties, Sudan has expelled Iran’s ambassador and the UAE has downgraded its diplomatic team.

Saudi Arabia on Sunday gave Iranian diplomats two days to leave after an attack on its embassy in Tehran.

Saudi Arabia and Iran are the key Sunni and Shia powers in the region and back opposing sides in Syria and Yemen.

Bahrain, which is ruled by a Sunni Muslim king but has a majority Shia population, on Monday gave Iranian diplomats 48 hours to leave the country.

It accused Iran of “increasing, flagrant and dangerous meddling” in the internal affairs of Gulf and Arab states.

It said the attack on the Saudi embassy was part of a “very dangerous pattern of sectarian policies that should be confronted… to preserve security and stability in the entire region”.

Bahrain, which hosts the US Navy’s 5th Fleet, has frequently accused Iran of supporting a low-level Shia insurgency that flared following the Arab Spring uprisings in 2011.

The United Arab Emirates said it was downgrading its diplomatic representation in Tehran and will cut the number of Iranian diplomats in the country.

There are fears sectarian strife may spread in the region following the execution of Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr and 46 others in Saudi Arabia on Saturday after they were convicted of terror-related offences.

On Monday, two Sunni mosques in Iraq were bombed and an imam killed.

Analysis: Jonathan Marcus, BBC defence and diplomatic correspondent

Ties between Iran and Bahrain have long been difficult; influenced by many of the same factors that have poisoned Saudi-Iranian relations.

Bahrain has suffered considerable internal turmoil over the past year and has clamped down heavily, with claims that Iran is behind much of the unrest.

Last July, Bahrain recalled its ambassador to Tehran after it foiled an arms smuggling plot which it attributed to Iranian-backed elements.

The demise of Saddam Hussein’s Iraq – which always served as an Arab counter-weight to Tehran – has resulted in a growing regional role for Iran, which the Gulf Arabs see as a serious threat.

The US-Iran nuclear deal has also increased sensitivities in the region as has the continuing struggle in Syria, in which the Gulf Arabs and Tehran are on very different sides.

‘Pursuing confrontation’

Saudi Arabia announced late on Sunday that it was severing diplomatic relations with Iran after demonstrators stormed the Saudi embassy in Tehran. It has recalled its own diplomats.

Iran’s foreign ministry on Monday accused the Saudis of “continuing the policy of increasing tension and clashes in the region”.

Ministry spokesman Hossein Jaber Ansari said: “Saudi Arabia sees not only its interests but also its existence in pursuing crises and confrontations and attempts to resolve its internal problems by exporting them to the outside.”

He defended Iran’s response to the embassy attack, saying it had “acted in accordance with its obligations to control the broad wave of popular emotion”. Fifty arrests were made.

Iran’s first vice-president, Eshaq Jahangiri, said it would be Saudi Arabia that lost out by severing ties, accusing it of “hasty and illogical actions”.

But in announcing the cut in ties, Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir said accused Iran of having “distributed weapons and planted terrorist cells in the region”.

“Iran’s history is full of negative interference and hostility in Arab issues, and it is always accompanied by destruction,” he said.

In other developments:

  • Bomb blasts rock two Sunni mosques in and around Hilla, 80km (50 miles) south of the Iraqi capital, Baghdad. A muezzin of one of the mosques is killed
  • The Sunni imam of a mosque in Alexandria, north of Babylon in Iraq, is killed by gunmen
  • Police come under heavy gunfire in Sheikh Nimr’s hometown, Awamiya in Saudi Arabia’s Eastern Province, on Sunday night, leaving one civilian dead and a child injured

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