By Magdalena Mis
LONDON (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - Britain has "a long way to go" to ensure full equality for transgender people and needs to update the law to give them the same opportunities as everyone else, a parliamentary committee said on Thursday.
The hostility experienced by transgender people on a daily basis undermines their careers, living standards and access to services, the Women and Equalities Committee, which monitors the performance of the government's Equalities Office, said in a report.
"Britain leads the way when it comes to many issues on LGB (rights) but not when it comes to trans issues," Maria Miller, the committee chairwoman, told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.
"What we've seen in evidence given to the committee is that the law and service provision are lagging behind and causing considerable problems to trans people in their everyday lives."
Britain should modernize its "outdated" equality laws regulating gender change and allow gender self-declaration, the committee said after an inquiry into transgender equality.
It said gender self-declaration is already in place in countries including the Netherlands, Argentina, Denmark and Ireland.
It made more than 30 recommendations, including moving towards 'non gender' official records, strengthening hate crime legislation and reviewing treatment of transgender people in prisons.
"This is something that needs urgent action because trans people deserve to be able to live full and successful lives in the way that any other person does in this country," Miller said.
The committee said the National Health Service (NHS) was failing transgender people because of a lack of knowledge and understanding of transgender issues and urged the NHS to review its services.
Transgender expert Jay Stewart, who gave evidence to the inquiry, said the report was "incredibly positive".
"I think the report is an amazing job covering many, many aspects of activities that need to take place to ensure that trans people feel included and equal in society," Stewart, director of the non-profit Gendered Intelligence, said by phone.
According to a poll published on Thursday by women's rights charity the Fawcett Society, more than 40 percent of British people believe that gender is not binary but fluid and can be expressed as a range of identities.
"The research done by the Fawcett Society ... shows the public opinion is well ahead of where our legislation and our public service provision is, and I think we need to move quickly on this," Miller said.
The committee urged the government to agree a new strategy for transgender equality within six months.
(Reporting by Magdalena Mis, editing by Tim Pearce. Please credit Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers humanitarian news, women’s rights, corruption and climate change. Visit www.trust.org)