Law changes to strengthen women’s rights by rewriting the Equality Act on the basis of biological sex instead of gender identity might not take place until next summer
- PM indicated support in June, saying ‘biological sex is fundamentally important’
Promised reforms to strengthen women’s rights may not be carried out until next summer, it emerged yesterday.
The project to rewrite part of the Equality Act on the basis of biological sex rather than gender identity was proposed by equalities minister Kemi Badenoch in February.
The Equality and Human Rights Commission backed the idea in April, saying it would bring ‘greater legal clarity’ in eight different areas including allowing organisers to prevent transgender women from entering female-only spaces such as single-sex wards or sports teams.
Rishi Sunak indicated his support in June, saying that ‘biological sex is fundamentally important’ in areas such as toilets and sports.
But it has now emerged that the Cabinet Office has only recently advertised for a civil servant to work on the project – and specifies that it will not be completed until next July.
The project to rewrite part of the Equality Act on the basis of biological sex rather than gender identity was proposed by equalities minister Kemi Badenoch (pictured) in February
READ MORE: Rishi Sunak says ‘biological sex is fundamentally important’ ahead of a parliamentary debate on changes to equality law
A Whitehall job ad posted internally in August offered up to £75,000 for an official to take charge of the clarification of equality law.
It stated: ‘The post is needed to lead a new team established within the Equality Hub at the Minister for Women and Equalities’ request. One of the major deliverables is a complex legislative project that is due to be completed by July 2024.
‘This is a role to consider whether and how legislative changes to the Equality Act 2010 could be made. This project is intended to be completed by end July 2024.’
Campaigners believe the change required to the law is only a simple tweak, however, and want it to be carried out urgently. They believe a piece of secondary legislation known as a statutory instrument – which would not have to be voted on by MPs or peers – would suffice. It could introduce a definition of women to the Equality Act, stating that it means those who were born female – and not those who were born male but legally changed sex by obtaining a Gender Recognition Certificate.
Maya Forstater, of campaign group Sex Matters, said: ‘We are very encouraged to see the Government giving the proposal serious attention and putting capacity behind it.
‘It is important that they consult but this should be done with urgency.’
Rishi Sunak (pictured) said biological sex is ‘fundamentally important’ ahead of a parliamentary debate on changes to equality law in June
But trans campaigners see the proposed reform as an attack on their rights and hope the Government will run out of time to introduce it before the next general election.
Robin Moira White, a barrister who shared the job advert online, said: ‘Don’t Panic. The GE has to be held before the end of Jan ’25, and likely earlier, so there will be no time to implement this.’
A Government source said: ‘Even a minor change to a piece of legislation as big and fundamental as the Equality Act is not something you do lightly. It requires serious work and consideration. We are recruiting someone to look at this.’
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