Self-identification of sex simplified through the Births, Deaths, Marriages, and Relationships Registration Bill
On 9 December 2021, the Births, Deaths, Marriages, and Relationship Registration Bill (“Bill”) was unanimously passed by Parliament. This Bill means that those who do not identify with the sex assigned to them at birth are able to correct this themselves far more easily.
Self identification of sex process
Currently, the process for changing the sex on one’s birth certificate requires an application to the Family Court. The application must contain evidence that the individual has undergone irreversible medical treatment to physically conform with a different sex, such as hormone therapy or genitalia reconstruction. This creates a cost barrier for those who cannot afford such medical treatment. There are also cost barriers associated with making such an application to the Family Court. The Bill acts to remove this complex and often inaccessible process.
Once the majority of the Bill comes into force on 15 June 2023, those who wish to change the sex recorded on their birth certificate can apply directly to the Registrar-General with a statutory declaration which follows a self-identification process. Such self-identification will be based on whether a person identifies as male or female, rather than eligibility criteria such as medical treatment. This is an important step towards helping takatāpui, transgender, non-binary and intersex New Zealanders hold an identity document which aligns with who they are. Self identification is a more accessible and inclusive way to amend the sex recorded on birth certificates.
Updating the language of the Act
Another focus of the Bill is to update the language of the Act. On 15 December 2025, a provision will come into force which enables a parent that is notifying the birth of a child to specify whether they wish to appear as mother, father or parent on that child’s birth certificate. This is another important change to enable New Zealanders to establish their own identity.
For cisgender New Zealanders, changing the sex listed on their birth certificate is not something that has required consideration. However, for those who have faced regular stigma, exclusion, social isolation and even violence based on sex, this is an important update to the law.
The Family Law team would be happy to assist with any legal representation required to change your sex on your birth certificate or discuss aspects of the updated Act.