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Closed petition Update the Equality Act to make clear the characteristic “sex” is biological sex

The Government must exercise its power under s.23 of the Gender Recognition Act to modify the operation of the Equality Act 2010 by specifying the terms sex, male, female, man & woman, in the operation of that law, mean biological sex and not "sex as modified by a Gender Recognition Certificate"

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The Equality Act 2010 covers nine separate protected characteristics, including “Sex” & “Gender Reassignment”. This protects people against sex discrimination and discrimination because a person is transgender.

There has been much confusion about how the Equality Act and GRA interact. This has caused uncertainty and conflict for women, transgender people, and service providers. The GRA includes a provision to amend other laws to make it clear whether a GRC changes the definition of sex for that law.

This petition is closed All petitions run for 6 months

109,462 signatures

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100,000

Parliament debated this topic

This topic was debated on 12 June 2023

Watch the petition 'Update the Equality Act to make clear the characteristic “sex” is biological sex' being debated

Government responded

This response was given on 26 January 2023

Under the Equality Act 2010, providers are already able to restrict the use of spaces/services on the basis of sex and/or gender reassignment where justified. Further clarification is not necessary.

The Equality Act 2010 provides protection against discrimination, harassment and victimisation across a number of grounds, including sex. We are committed to upholding Britain’s long-standing record of protecting the rights of individuals against unlawful discrimination.

The Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) have published guidance on the existing legislation which provides much needed clarity to those offering single-sex spaces. It does not change the legal position or the law.

As the guidance makes clear, it is entirely acceptable for providers of single-sex services to take account of the biological sex of their service users. Where it is a proportionate means of achieving a legitimate aim, the Equality Act 2010 is clear that service providers can exclude, modify or limit access for transgender people, even where they have a Gender Recognition Certificate (GRC). This includes where a service provider has concerns that the presence of individuals who are biologically male could prevent them from meeting their aims, such as in the example below, included in the guidance:

“A group counselling session is provided for female victims of sexual assault. The organisers do not allow trans women to attend as they judge that the clients who attend the group session are likely to be traumatised by the presence of a person who is biologically male.”

It is important that providers of single-sex services are clear that biological sex can be taken into consideration when providing services.

The Government is committed to maintaining the safeguards that allow organisations to provide single-sex spaces. It is important that the principle of being able to operate spaces reserved for women and girls is maintained. Government is committed to tackling harassment and abusive behaviours by all individuals, and ensuring single-sex spaces are safe for those using them.

Cabinet Office

Overdue Government response to petition chased by Petitions Committee

The Petitions Committee, the group of MPs who consider e-petitions, have written to the Minister for Women and Equalities, Kemi Badenoch MP, regarding the overdue Government response to this e-petition.

Read the Committee's letter

The letter asks the Government to provide a response to the petition and an explanation of the delay by Wednesday 18 January.

Government departments are meant to submit responses to e-petitions within 21 days. A response to this petition was first requested by the Committee on 3 November 2022, but the Government has not yet responded.

Because the response to this petition is now several weeks overdue, the Committee has written to the Government asking them to explain the delay, and to provide their response to this petition.

In the letter, the Chair of the Petitions Committee Catherine McKinnell MP highlights how important it is that Government departments provide a timely response to e-petitions that receive over 10,000 signatures.

The Government's explanation for the delay, and their response, will be shared with petitioners by email and on the Committee's website.

Government submits overdue response to petition

The Government has responded to the e-petition you signed.

The Government's response

Under the Equality Act 2010, providers are already able to restrict the use of spaces/services on the basis of sex and/or gender reassignment where justified. Further clarification is not necessary.

The Equality Act 2010 provides protection against discrimination, harassment and victimisation across a number of grounds, including sex. We are committed to upholding Britain’s long-standing record of protecting the rights of individuals against unlawful discrimination.

The Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) have published guidance on the existing legislation which provides much needed clarity to those offering single-sex spaces. It does not change the legal position or the law.

As the guidance makes clear, it is entirely acceptable for providers of single-sex services to take account of the biological sex of their service users. Where it is a proportionate means of achieving a legitimate aim, the Equality Act 2010 is clear that service providers can exclude, modify or limit access for transgender people, even where they have a Gender Recognition Certificate (GRC). This includes where a service provider has concerns that the presence of individuals who are biologically male could prevent them from meeting their aims, such as in the example below, included in the guidance:

“A group counselling session is provided for female victims of sexual assault. The organisers do not allow trans women to attend as they judge that the clients who attend the group session are likely to be traumatised by the presence of a person who is biologically male.”

It is important that providers of single-sex services are clear that biological sex can be taken into consideration when providing services.

The Government is committed to maintaining the safeguards that allow organisations to provide single-sex spaces. It is important that the principle of being able to operate spaces reserved for women and girls is maintained. Government is committed to tackling harassment and abusive behaviours by all individuals, and ensuring single-sex spaces are safe for those using them.

The response to this petition was provided by the Cabinet Office.

Minister for Women and Equalities apologises for late response

The Minister for Women and Equalities, Kemi Badenoch MP, has apologised for the delay in responding to this petition. The minister said:

The delay was caused by exceptional factors including waiting for the conclusion of a directly relevant case being heard by the Court of Appeal in Scotland on this issue. We took the view that it would be helpful to the petitioners if we could respond in full knowledge of the Court’s ruling on this matter.