A new chapter in Child Rights

  • December 06, 2018

If you think sexual identity protections aren’t necessary for children, think about this: in a 2010 study of the Ontario trans population, 59 per cent said they knew before they were 10 years old that their gender didn’t match the sex assigned to them at birth. By the age of 14, 80 per cent knew it, and 93 per cent knew by the time they were 19.

And if you think this is only a problem for a small number of children with very specific issues, think about this: 37 per cent of trans students, and 21 per cent of non-trans LGBQ students, say they’ve been physically harassed and assaulted at school because of their gender expression – and so have 10 per cent of straight, cis-gender high school students, according to a report on homophobia in Canadian schools.

The rights of children and youth with respect to SOGIE – sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, and gender expression – are not well-understood, but they apply in a wide range of areas, including privacy, health care, documentation, use of facilities, access to services, education, employment, child protection, age of consent laws, and youth justice and detention. The application of SOGIE rights to children and youth is evolving rapidly, and supplements other human rights protections to which they are entitled.

A new chapter in the CBA’s Child Rights Toolkit  addresses the growing field of SOGIE rights as they apply to children and youth, providing information for lawyers in the field such as a glossary of terms, applicable international law and federal legislation, provincial/territorial legislation, and key cases.

The section on practice essentials offers guidance for lawyers representing children with SOGIE issues, and the resources section directs lawyers to a comprehensive assortment of background reading materials.

“The historical pathologization of homosexuality and gender non-conformity, and widespread use of surgical interventions to ‘standardize’ the genitalia without medical necessity and to erase the existence of intersex infants and children, continues to  influence attitudes about expression by children and youth as anything other-than heterosexual and cisgender,” the new chapter says. Lack of strong parental support can lead to homelessness, physical and mental health problems, and talk of suicide.

“It is critical that judges, lawyers, and other professionals working with children and youth be alert to issues relating to sexual orientation, gender identity and gender expression, and their impact on young people’s lives.”