by Rebecca Hilsenrath
Published: 22 Oct 2018
Today we have published our response to the UK Government’s consultation on the reform of the Gender Recognition Act 2004 (PDF), which seeks to simplify the process of legal gender recognition.
We welcome the move to remove unnecessary barriers trans people currently face in obtaining a Gender Recognition Certificate in England and Wales, and in Scotland where a separate consultation has taken place.
Trans people face barriers in almost every aspect of life - from bullying at school to poor mental health.
Given the sensitive and complex nature of many of the issues involved, it is vital that Parliamentarians, policy makers, trans and other groups understand the implications of any changes to the law and how the law will translate into practice.
This understanding will only come when the debate is constructive.
We would all like to see a society that is free from discrimination and persecution. Women’s rights organisations and now trans rights groups too have long been campaigning to be treated with dignity and respect, and it is important that all voices are heard as part of a respectful debate.
Open and honest debate
Rights for trans people need to be moved forward in an evidenced way that listens to all sides, without closing down the views of people with legitimate concerns. That may be uncomfortable at times, but that is the essence of free speech.
Equally, we need an open and honest debate where people aren’t scared their personal safety will be put at risk because, ultimately, that will set back the cause of trans rights and those of others, too, through closing down the channels to greater information and understanding.
We have consulted a range of stakeholders during the summer to listen to their concerns and suggestions. These have informed our response, and we are grateful for their input.
We have also analysed the legal position under the Equality Act 2010 to consider the implications of certain changes.
We know there are specific concerns that removing barriers to acquiring legal gender recognition might affect women-only spaces and services provided under the single-sex and separate-sex service provisions in the Equality Act 2010.
Our firm legal view is that the reform of the Gender Recognition Act will not erode the special status of these important services, such as women’s refuges, health services and clubs.
We would however recommend that any changes made to the Act are supported by clear, practical guidance to help trans people, other service users and service providers fully understand their rights and responsibilities.
Additionally there are a few areas that still require further clarity from the Government, such as the potential impact of Gender Recognition Act reform upon the use of the all-women shortlist provisions in the Equality Act. These are explained more fully in our response.
We look forward to reading the government’s response to the consultation, setting out the actions they plan to take, and will continue to work to ensure that any changes respect and protect everyone’s rights.