Government scraps plans for reform of Gender Recognition Act in England and Wales
During the summer of 2018 the government launched a public consultation about changes to the Gender Recognition Act 2004 for England and Wales. Powerful transgender interest groups lobbied hard for full deregulation of the legal transition process, demanding a move to a simplified approach known as Sex Self-ID, that would allow any man to change his birth certificate on demand to say he was born female.
Fair Play For Women launched its own ambitious GRA reform public awareness campaign to ensure that female voices were heard and listened to during the public consultation. Funded entirely by public donations we produced and distributed much-needed campaign information, made sure women’s concerns were heard in the national media, published our own research, and met with politicians and policy influencers throughout the consultation period. By the end of the campaign we had secured consultation responses from over 20,000 members of the public, making this consultation one of the largest ever held.
Against the odds, and with no official funding, women won! In September 2020 the UK government announced its decision, making minor amendments but retaining medical oversight. Our success was down to the hard work of ordinary women and small donations from hundreds of our supporters.
The Women and Equalities Select Committee WESC will now hold an inquiry to review the Gender Recognition Act reform recommendations
It is not unusual for a Select committee to launch an inquiry to respond to Government recommendations. On the 28th October 2020, the Women and Equalities Select Committee launched an inquiry into proposed reform of the Gender Recognition Act 2004. They called for evidence in response to the government’s proposed modernisation of the GRC application process. They also asked for evidence on the wider implications and issues surrounding transgender equality and current legislation.
The committee asked:
- Should there be changes to the requirement for individuals to have lived in their acquired gender for at least two years?
- Should the requirement for a diagnosis of gender dysphoria be removed?
- What impact will these proposed changes have on those people applying for a Gender Recognition Certificate, and on trans people more generally?
- Why is the number of people applying for a Gender Recognition Certificate so low compared to the number who identify as transgender?
- Are the Equality Act provisions for single/separate sex spaces and facilities clear and useable? If not, do we need reform or further guidance?
- Issues around access to services, including health and social care, domestic violence and sexual violence support services.
- Are legal reforms needed to better support the rights of gender-fluid and non-binary people?
On 9 December 2020 the committee will hear evidence from two groups of academics, one advocating for more trans rights and another group discussing the conflicts between those demands and women’s rights and needs. The hearings will be chaired by Caroline Nokes, Conservative MP for Romsey and Southampton North in Hampshire.
Fair Play For Women agrees with the Minister that, in considering any changes to the GRC process, it is important to strike a balance between conflicting interests of different groups, and to maintain appropriate safeguards. We have independently reviewed the GRC application process and concluded it is not onerous or intrusive. We share the view of the majority of the general public who believe that males can not become female.
We have grave concerns about the inconsistent use of language and the conflation of sex and gender in the Gender Recognition Act. We believe there should be greater clarity about its impact on the single-sex provisions of the Equality Act 2010. We call for better guidance on the practical implementation of these provisions, guidance which adheres more closely to the original wording of the Act and enables women and girls to reclaim the privacy, safety and fairness that this law intended.
Fair Play For Women has made our own submission to the Inquiry in response to this Call for Evidence based on our research and experience over the last three years. All evidence submitted to the inquiry is published on the UK parliament committees website.
Our response to the government decision on GRA reform, announced in September 2020
The Scottish government is still considering a self-ID model for Gender Recognition Act reform
Sex Self-ID would have serious consequences for women not only in Scotland but across the whole of the UK. We are supporting the many Scottish women’s groups who are leading the resistance to this. They are also fighting other proposed laws in Scotland which are dismissive of women’s rights. The Gender Representation on Public Boards (Scotland) Act of 2018 used a self-ID definition of woman, meaning that anyone who claimed to be a woman would count towards the target of increasing female representation in public boards. This was robustly challenged in a public consultation. The Scottish government has not responded, and For Women Scotland are now making a legal challenge.
The fight for women’s rights is not over
Just because GRA reform has been dropped in England and Wales it doesn’t mean our sex-based rights are now secure. Across the UK, many organisations have adopted policies that entitle a man who self-identifies as a woman, without a GRC, to access women’s spaces. The law does not require this, but campaign groups like Stonewall have claimed that it does. Women’s single-sex spaces have been made mixed-sex, and women have not been consulted. The Fair Play For Women mission is to make sure women and girls are never forgotten or ignored by policy-makers. We think that advocates for sex-based rights must now be treated as stakeholders in all policies on transgender inclusion. Every policy must be looked at again with fresh eyes to make sure they work for everyone, not just trans people, this time with all stakeholders consulted. Our focus now is to ensure the law is correctly communicated and enacted. We are now lobbying government to produce clear and unequivocal guidance to service providers explaining that spaces can be reserved exclusively for the female sex when necessary. We have also been busy producing our own advice to policy makers and attending policy stakeholder meetings to represent the concerns and priorities of women and girls. Our current focus areas include prisons, sport, changing rooms and language.
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