Tories to make biological sex protected characteristic

Tories to make ‘biological sex’ protected characteristic

They say the Equality Act is not sufficiently clear

The Conservatives have pledged to change the Equality Act to define the protected characteristic of sex as “biological sex”.

They claim the change will make it simpler for service providers for women and girls, such as those running sessions for domestic abuse victims, to prevent biological males from taking part.

The Tories say that Labour’s Equality Act has not kept pace with evolving interpretations and is not sufficiently clear on when it means sex and when it means gender.

The party says the proposed change to the law will not remove the existing and continuing protections against discrimination on the basis of gender reassignment provided by the Equality Act.

The sex of those with a Gender Recognition Certificate will still align with their acquired gender in law outside the Equality Act, for example marriage law, as is the status quo.

Under the new scheme the Conservatives will also establish in law that gender recognition is a reserved matter, with women and equalities minister Kemi Badenoch saying, “it is impracticable for gender recognition regimes to vary in different parts of the country”.

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said: “The safety of women and girls is too important to allow the current confusion around definitions of sex and gender to persist.

“The Conservatives believe that making this change in law will enhance protections in a way that respects the privacy and dignity of everyone in society.

“We are taking an evidence-led approach to this issue so we can continue to build a secure future for everyone across the whole country.”

Last year Ms Badenoch wrote to the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) seeking further guidance on the issue.

She said public bodies are acting out of “fear of being accused of transphobia”.

The minister said: “Whether it is rapists being housed in women’s prisons, or instances of men playing in women’s sports where they have an unfair advantage, it is clear that public authorities and regulatory bodies are confused about what the law says on sex and gender and when to act – often for fear of being accused of transphobia, or not being inclusive.

“That is why we are today pledging that, if we form a government after the election, we will clarify that sex in the law means biological sex and not new, redefined meanings of the word.”

Writing in The Times, Ms Badenoch gave further detail on what the proposed changes would mean, and attacked Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer for going “round in circles” on the issue.

The women and equalities minister also attacked “activist organisations” such as Stonewall for exploiting loopholes in the law “for their own agenda”.

She wrote: “Clarification is required. Not just to protect the privacy and dignity of women and girls, but also … transpeople who were going about their lives in peace, until predators started exploiting loopholes in the law by calling themselves trans with no evidence beyond their self-identification.”

In her article Ms Badenoch also revealed that a future Tory government would legislate to strip the Scottish Parliament of its powers to legislate on issues surrounding gender recognition.

The Gender Recognition Bill was passed in the Scottish Parliament in 2022 and would have made it easier for transgender people in Scotland to get gender recognition certificates.

The Bill was prevented from proceeding to royal assent by an order under Section 35 of the Scotland Act 1998, made by the then secretary of state for Scotland, Alister Jack.

In December, the Court of Session ruled the action was lawful, despite a Scottish Government challenge.

Ms Badenoch wrote: “We are one United Kingdom and it is impracticable for gender recognition regimes to vary in different parts of the country. So, we will also legislate to establish that gender recognition is a reserved matter.

“On fundamental matters of personal identity there should be one approach throughout the United Kingdom.”

Ms Badenoch criticised the Labour leader, writing: “There are numerous examples of Keir Starmer going round in circles on this issue.

“And many more of mostly Labour politicians smearing those with concerns as ‘transphobic’ or ‘far-right’, dismissing the issue as mere ‘culture wars’.

“They then bizarrely claim that the government should stick to talking about the economy and the NHS, as if we should not be capable of solving multiple things at once.”

She added: “A future Conservative government will take bold action and introduce primary legislation to clarify that the protected characteristic of sex in the Equality Act means biological sex.

“Our legislation will mean that for the purposes of the Equality Act, the provision in the Gender Recognition Act recognising legal sex will be disapplied.”

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