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  1. ITV Report

Transgender woman settles discrimination case

Credit: Human Rights Commission

There have been calls by the Human Rights Commission to change a law in Northern Ireland which "discriminates" against transgender women in claiming their state pension.

It comes after transgender woman Frances Shiels was facing a financial loss of thousands of pounds after the Pension Service said her state pension would only be back dated to when she received her gender recognition certificate and not her 63rd birthday.

The Human Rights Commission took a case against the Department for Communities to back pay her state pension entitlements.

The 67-year-old from County Londonderry received her gender recognition certificate in February 2015 and she then applied for her state pension in April that year.

Ms Shiels was told she could not receive her pension as a woman until legal and administrative hurdles had been overcome, causing her financial loss.

Current legislation in Northern Ireland states that an individual must not be married to obtain a full certificate. Northern Ireland is still the only part of the UK where this is required.

In April 2019, the Commission entered into settlement discussions with the Department for Communities and agreed to settle the case on the basis that Ms Shiels was given the full amount that she would have received from her qualifying date.

The Commission settled the case and the government department has now paid out to restore her full entitlements.

"I knew from the outset that I was not being treated fairly but was only able to establish my rights when I received help from the Human Rights Commission.

"It is important that the rights of transgender individuals are properly respected and that we can fully participate in society like everyone else."

– Frances Shiels

“We are delighted with the settlement for Frances. We argued that the initial decision of the Pensions Service was discriminatory under the Human Rights Act and caused her significant financial loss, we are happy this has now been fixed.The only factor preventing a full entitlement in this case was the requirement that transgender individuals should be unmarried. Northern Ireland is still the only part of the UK where this is required. The law needs to be amended to end this discrimination.”

– Chief Commissioner Les Allamby

In a statement, a Departmental spokesperson said:

“The Department for Communities notes the press statement from the Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission, however the Department does not comment on individual cases.”