The 'Culture War' Challenges To Trans Rights In The UK

A move to amend the Equality Act and to block Scotland's attempt to make changing gender easier.
David Cheskin via PA Wire/PA Images

As the general election approaches, the rights of trans people across the UK are coming under pressure amid increasing attempts to fight culture wars.

Here are some of the legal challenges facing trans people in the UK right now

Changing the definition of ‘sex’

Kemi Badenoch, the equalities minister, is considering making it easier to ban trans women from single-sex spaces.

The change to the Equality Act would see the protected characteristic of “sex” changed to “biological sex” - the sex assigned to someone at birth.

It follows a recommendation from the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC).

In practise this would mean trans people holding a gender recognition certificate (GRC) could be excluded from same-sex spaces.

The Gender Recognition Act 2004 provides that the gender of a person with a GRC becomes the acquired gender for all purposes and recognised as their legal sex.

A change would mean trans people holding a GRC would then be banned from some women-only spaces, from some jobs, from participating in some sport.

Labour has also said it supports the EHRC’s recommendation for the Equality Act to be amended.

Stonewall has warned the move is part of a “manufactured culture war” for which there is no demand.

Blocking Scotland’s gender reform law

In December the Scottish parliament passed a law which would have made it easier to change gender.

The Gender Recognition Reform (Scotland) Bill was passed by 86 votes to 39.

It allows trans people to obtain a gender recognition certificate without the need for a medical diagnosis.

It also drops the minimum age for applicants to 16, and lowers the time required for an applicant to live as their gender from three years to two months. For 16 and 17-year-olds, this will be six months.

But the Bill was blocked by UK Scotland Secretary Alister Jack in January, who used Section 35 of the Scotland Act to stop it becoming law.

The UK government said it was “concerned that this legislation would have an adverse impact on the operation of Great Britain-wide equalities legislation”.

Humza Yousaf, Scotland’s new first minister, has said he will mount a legal challenge to this “undemocratic veto”.

Conversion therapy ban

Protections for trans people from conversion therapy will now be included in a new law designed to ban the practice.

But the move came after a fierce internal-battle inside the Tory party, after Boris Johnson had initially decided to exclude trans people from the proposed new law.

It has also been a longtime coming, with Theresa May having first promised to ban conversion therapy when prime minister in 2018.

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