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Reform of the Gender Recognition Act examined with legal experts

9 February 2021

The Women and Equalities Committee dicusses the Gender Recognition Act 2004; the Equality Act 2010; Equality Act 2010 exceptions; self-identification; the interplay between the Equality Act 2010 and the Gender Recognition Act 2004; the Government’s response to the GRA consultation.

Witnesses

Wednesday 10 February 2021, virtual meeting

At 2.30pm

  • Karon Monaghan QC, Matrix Chambers
  • Robin White, Barrister, Old Square Chambers
  • Naomi Cunningham, Barrister, Outer Temple Chambers
  • Sally Brett, Head of Diversity and Inclusion, The Law Society

Objectives for this week’s session:

  • To understand how the Gender Recognition Act works in practice
  • To explore some of the concerns and issues regarding the existing Gender Recognition Act
  • To examine whether the Government’s proposals go far enough in addressing any issues with this piece of legislation
  • To examine how the Gender Recognition Act interacts with the Equality Act
  • To explore whether changes to the Gender Recognition Act could impact provisions in the Equality Act

Background

The future of trans equality: Women and Equalities Committee launches new inquiry into Gender Recognition Act reform and more

Do the Government’s proposed reforms on gender recognition go far enough? What changes need to be made to the Gender Recognition Act and other laws to improve transgender equality? What about wider reforms? These are the main questions which the Women and Equalities Committee will be considering in this major new inquiry, due to report in summer 2021.

In September, Minister for Women and Equalities Liz Truss announced the Government’s plan to reform the gender recognition process by making it an entirely online process and reducing the fee to a nominal amount, along with the opening of three new gender clinics. This followed the Government consultation on reform in 2018. The Committee will look at aspects of the reforms including:

  • Should there be changes to the requirement for individuals to have lived in their acquired gender for at least two years?
  • Should the requirement for a diagnosis of gender dysphoria be removed?
  • What impact will these proposed changes have on those people applying for a Gender Recognition Certificate, and on trans people more generally?

The Committee will also consider several wider issues where changes and reforms could improve transgender equality.

In addition to Gender Recognition Act reform, questions for the inquiry to consider include:

Why is the number of people applying for a Gender Recognition Certificate so low compared to the number who identify as transgender?

  • Are the Equality Act provisions for single/separate sex spaces and facilities clear and useable? If not, do we need reform or further guidance?
  • Issues around access to services, including health and social care, domestic violence and sexual violence support services.
  • Are legal reforms needed to better support the rights of gender-fluid and non-binary people?

Chair's comments

Women and Equalities Committee Chair Caroline Nokes said:

“The Government has said it wants to make the process of applying for a Gender Recognition Certificate “kinder and more straightforward”, make it a fully online process, and reduce the fee. Which is progress – but is it enough? We’re seeking views about what other changes may be required to improve trans equality: to the Gender Recognition Act, or to other legislation - for example the Equality Act, to support services and facilities, and on legal reforms which could improve rights for gender fluid and non-binary people.”

The Women and Equalities Committee in the 2015-17 Parliament conducted the first ever select committee inquiry into transgender equality – which was also the first report for the newly established committee. One of its key recommendations – which the Government has acted on - was reform of the Gender Recognition Act 2004.

Further information

Image: Parliamentary copyright