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The definition of "sex" in the Equality Act 2010 to be debated by MPs

7 June 2023

On Monday 12 June, MPs will debate two petitions relating to the definition of "sex" in the Equality Act 2010.

Tonia Antoniazzi MP, a member of the Petitions Committee, has been asked by the Committee to open the debate. MPs from all parties can take part, and the Government will send a minister to respond.

MPs will debate the following petitions:

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

This petition, which has more than 109,000 signatures, states: “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’."

In its response to the petition, provided on 26 January 2023, the Government said: “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.”

“Commit to not amending the Equality Act's definition of sex”

This petition, which has more than 138,000 signatures, states: “It has been reported that the Government may amend the Equality Act to ‘make it clear that sex means biological sex rather than gender.’ The Government has previously committed to not remove legal protections for trans people, an already marginalised group, but this change would do so.”

In its response to the petition, provided on 25 January 2023, the Government said: “This Government believes in individual liberty. There are processes with appropriate checks to allow for those who wish to legally change their gender. Changes to the Equality Act are not necessary.”

What are petitions debates?

Petitions debates are 'general' debates which allow MPs from all parties to discuss the important issues raised by one or more petitions, and put their concerns to Government Ministers.

Petition debates don’t end with a vote to implement the request of a petition. This means MPs will not vote on the requests of the petitions at the end of the debate.

Petition debates are scheduled by the Petitions Committee. Only e-petitions started on the parliament petitions site are considered by the Petitions Committee.

Further information

Image credit: Tyler Allicock/UK Parliament