The debate as a result of Sex Matters petition reaching 100,000 signatories is due to be held in Westminster on Monday 12th June. This is an important opportunity for MPs to discuss the issues raised about the definition of “sex” in the Equality Act.
Please write to your MP and ask them to take part. Even if you think your MP is likely to be unsupportive please email anyway as they need to understand the strength of feeling on this issue.
Enter your postcode here to find your MP’s email address, and copy and paste the suggested text into your email. Please remember it is your MP, not your MSPs, who should be contacted for this Westminster debate. And don’t forget to include your address in your email so MPs know you are in their constituency.
Suggested text is as follows. Please feel free to amend: perhaps add a personal anecdote about why single-sex services matter to you and why the meaning of sex needs to be clear, or add a request to meet to discuss it further.
I am writing as your constituent to ask you to attend the Westminster Hall debate at 4:30pm on Monday 12th June on clarifying that the protected characteristic of “sex” in the Equality Act relates to the biological factual reality of two different sexes.
The debate follows a successful petition promoted by the group Sex Matters and signed by more than 100,000 people. There was also a counter-petition calling for the law not to be clarified.
The question for the debate is whether the law should be made clearer, so as to establish beyond doubt that a Gender Recognition Certificate (GRC) does not redefine the categories of “male” and “female” in the Equality Act, or change a person’s sex in relation to sex discrimination.
This would make clear that having a certificate does not give male people the right to compete in women’s sports, or to undress or shower with women and girls, or to be employed in a job that involves intimate contact with women (such as where a doctor, nurse, police officer or prison guard carries out private examinations or searches). In these situations protecting everybody’s rights requires recognising that sex refers to a person’s immutable biology and not to acquired gender.
It would also ensure that females do not lose important rights such as pregnancy and maternity protections upon obtaining a male GRC.
These issues have been at the heart of two Scottish judicial reviews brought by For Women Scotland, the first of which ruled that provision for women, by definition excludes biological males. A lower court subsequently took a different view and ruled males with a female GRC are included. A Parliamentary briefing explains the cases and interpretation of the Equality Act, and suggests an amendment to provide legal clarity across the UK and protect everyone fairly.
You may have heard arguments that such a clarification would drive trans people out of British society. These are false.
Clarifying the law would not stop anyone from expressing themselves, changing their appearance, asking to be referred to by different names or pronouns, or obtaining a GRC. Every political party agrees on the need to protect single-sex services and associations. An inclusive society must recognise that different people have different needs.
The Chair of the Equality and Human Rights Commission has written to the Minister for Women and Equalities to provide advice. She notes that service providers and employers currently find it difficult to apply the law in areas such as sport and health services, and says that if “sex” is defined as biological sex for the purposes of the Equality Act, this would bring greater legal clarity.
This Westminster Hall debate is a major opportunity to move on from the toxic and unconstructive arguments that have dominated discussion of this sensitive topic in recent years. Please attend if you possibly can.
For Women Scotland briefing: https://forwomen.scot/02/06/2023/briefing-westminster-debate-on-the-equality-act/
More resources from Sex Matters: https://sex-matters.org/advice/equality-act-debate-resources/