The Government had given the public just six weeks to give feedback on plans for a controversial gender conversion law.
Last week women’s rights organisation, Fair Play For Women, threatened a judicial review if the deadline for public responses was not extended.
Today, the Government has conceded and will announce the deadline is to be extended by a further 8 weeks, more than doubling the consultation period to 14 weeks.
The consultation is about a new law designed to outlaw the practice of gay conversion therapy. But it may also criminalize therapists and parents trying to help children with gender dysphoria to feel more comfortable in their body rather than pursue a pathway to puberty blockers, cross-sex hormones and surgery.
Increasing numbers of children, mostly adolescent girls, are coming out as transgender and convinced they were ‘born in the wrong body’. Around a third of these children are autistic.
Two autistic women joined Fair Play For Women as co-claimants threatening legal action accusing the Government of breaking disability discrimination laws.
An ‘easy read’ document – designed to enable people with learning difficulties to access the consultation – was published 4 weeks late and then rapidly withdrawn the same day leaving only a week to respond before the consultation was due to close on Friday 10th December.
Jane – one of the autistic women involved in the legal action – said:
“As an autistic adult, I have first-hand experience of the sort of processing difficulties that can make navigating complex paperwork extremely difficult and time consuming. Given the significant crossover between autism and gender dysphoria, the lack of an easy read version will have the effect of excluding many who would wish to engage in the process”.
M, the second autistic co-claimant said:
“I had been waiting over a month for the promised Easy Read to be published and was worried about my ability to respond with only days left before the consultation was due to close. I needed the deadline extended to give me enough time to think about the issues and how they might affect me and my daughters”.
Dr Nicola Williams, Director of Fair Play For Women, said
“We are pleased the Government has agreed to publish an Easy Read format and significantly extend the deadline for everyone. Without this concession many people would not have had their views heard, and an important group they needed to hear from – autistic young people and their parents – would have been excluded”.
“The Government has been rushing to get this bill into law before an LGBT conference it’s hosting next year. Rushing legislation means mistakes get made. This law is complex, controversial and could harm children if they get it wrong. It is too important to be rushed”.
“We hope this gives officials time to slow down and reflect more widely on the law-making process. They must now take time to consider the public’s views and commit to undertaking proper pre-legislative scrutiny before any bill reaches parliament”.
Notes for Editors:
Fair Play For Women is a campaigning and consultancy organisation which works to protect the sex-based rights of women and girls in the UK. Our work is focused on understanding when and how gender- and sex-based rights conflict in law and policy making, and on ensuring the needs of women and girls are properly considered by policy-makers. Dr Nicola Williams [image] is available for interview and comment and can be contacted on [email protected]
Between 2011 and 2018, specialists at The Tavistock Centre’s Gender Identity Development Service in London have seen more than 1,000 under- 18s. An internal review discovered 372 of these patients – some 35 per cent – exhibited ‘moderate or severe autistic traits. Autism charities report that the prevalence of autism in the general population is 1-2%. This means young people with autistic traits who identify as transgender may consider themselves be at risk of “conversion therapy” and impacted by the legislation.
The Code of Practice for Consultations states “Consultation exercises should be designed to be accessible to, and clearly targeted at, those people the exercise is intended to reach”.
The government’s guidance document called “Accessible Communication Formats” states “make sure any consultation period is not reduced for disabled people due to accessible formats not being available at the launch, or running out during the consultation period”.
Copy of Pre-action letter sent to Government: https://fairplayforwomen.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/12/211203-Fairplay-PAP_-2.pdf