The government has confirmed that it will not make any changes to the Equality Act as part of its GRA reforms. This includes no change to the single-sex exemptions which give natal women their legal right to spaces and services exclusive to them. It will continue to be lawful to exclude someone if they are male or if they have reassigned their sex in certain instances. The government has also stated that it will ensure any changes it does make to advance the rights of trans people will not diminish women’s existing rights.
“We are clear that we have no intention of amending the Equality Act 2010, the legislation that allows for single sex spaces. Any GRA reform will not change the protected characteristics in the Equality Act nor the exceptions under the Equality Act that allow provision for single and separate sex spaces.
Providers of women-only services can continue to provide services in a different way, or even not provide services to trans individuals, provided it is objectively justified on a case-by-case basis. The same can be said about toilets, changing rooms or single sex activities. Providers may exclude trans people from facilities of the sex they identify with, provided it is a proportionate means of meeting a legitimate aim.
We are confident that advancing the rights of trans people does not have to compromise women’s rights, and will work with all groups to ensure this.” Full government response here
Although this statement sounds good for women it does not, in practice, mean that women will not be impacted. If the government decides to introduce a self-declaration process for getting a GRC, the single sex exemptions enshrined in the Equality Act 2010 will become unworkable and impossible for organisations to use.
Our right to a natal female space will remain written down in law but could never be used. Here’s why:
|The GRA2004 sets out the legal process to get a GRC. The GRC gives someone two important things:
|Single-sex exemptions make it lawfully to exclude someone from a female-only space if they are:
How single-sex spaces work today:
Only about 4500 Gender Recognition Certificates have ever been approved since 2004. This means the overwhelming majority of the UK has a birth certificate that matches their birth sex. Apart from a tiny number of exceptions a birth certificate is the official document that reflects someone’s biological sex. The sex we are born.
If a man knocks the door of a women’s refuge he can be refused entry because he is legally male.
If a man knocks the door of a women’s refuge and says he’s a women he can still be refused entry because he is legally male.
If he protests and say’s ‘but I was born female you must let me in’ the staff at the refuge are put in a very difficult position. They can ask to see his full birth certificate, which will prove he is legally male. If he refuses to show it or doesn’t have it they can search the public birth registers to see if they can confirm his legal sex is male. It is difficult and time consuming and all the information they will need is not always there.
This is the lawful system that keeps vulnerable women and their children safe when they need a male-free space to rest and recover from the trauma of male violence and abuse. It is already extremely difficult to implement.
How would self-declaration system change things:
Self-identification of sex means someone could change their birth certificate without needing any medical reports or even a diagnosis of gender dysphoria. It would be an on-demand system. Anyone will be able to apply a replacement birth certificate showing the sex of their choice. It will be against the law to falsify the application, against the law to say you want to live as the opposite sex. But people lie, predatory males lie. It will be impossible to prove they have lied. How can anyone judge the validity of another persons inner feelings? You can’t.
Now of course a self-declaration system will be quick and easy for transgender people, but also extremely easy to abuse. No checks or safeguards means literally ANY MAN will be able to get a female birth certificate, whether he is transgender or not.
So if a man who self-identifies as a woman knocks the door of a women’s refuge he can say ‘let me in I am female’. He can show his newly acquired female birth certificate. His new name and female sex will be recorded on the public births register. All his public records will match the records of someone born female. The same as any women, the same as you and I.
He can’t be refused entry because of his legal sex anymore BUT the law still allows him to be refused entry because he has reassigned his gender.
BUT here is the rub – his gender recognition certificate doesn’t only make him legally female, it also confers strict privacy laws. It is illegal for an official to reveal that he has reassigned his legal sex. There will be no searchable database that will tell the refuge he was not born female. There will be no number they can phone to find out he was not born female. Basically, it will be impossible to officially prove he was not born female. They will not have the facts they need to refuse entry.
This sets up the ludicrous and dangerous situation where a man can be at the door of a refuge, visible to anyone who looks at him that he is a man, but if he self-identifies his sex as female and says he was born that way there will be no way to prove he is not. These changes make the implementation of single-sex exemptions not just difficult, but impossible.
Self-Identification will be the final nail in the coffin for activities and spaces exclusively reserved for natal women.
Spaces for natal women are already under siege. In the clamour to show their support for transgender rights many organisations are already rushing to change their women-only policies to include anyone who says they are a woman. Men who say they are women are already in our changing rooms, already in our swimming pools, already sleeping next to us in youth hostels, already on our female hospital wards, already in our domestic violence shelters.
The few brave companies that do invoke their legal right to maintain a space exclusive to natal woman are attacked and their policy called transphobic. Most give up, fearful of the adverse publicly, fearful that they are breaking the law.
Natal women need their own spaces. We are not the same as transwomen. We are not the same as men who say they are women. We have different needs and experiences and biology.
Transgender people have a legal right to their own spaces under the Equality Act. Spaces exclusive for transgender people are allowed by law that non-transgender people can’t access. Women are simply asking for that same right not to be taken away from us.
So we say thank you to the government for stating your support for women’s rights, safety and privacy. Thank you for stating that you will ensure that changes to the GRA will not be at the expense on women’s existing rights. If you are committed to this promise it means that a self-identification system, without medical checks or safeguards, must never be implemented. We call on you now to rule out self-identification as an option for GRA reform.