Tories vow to amend Equality Act to define sex as ‘biological sex’ and restrict trans people’s access to public spaces

Kemi Badenoch sitting at a table
Kemi Badenoch, Minister for Women and Equalities (Image: Wikimedia Commons/Simon Dawson/No 10 Downing Street)

The Conservative Party has vowed to amend the Equality Act so that ‘sex’ means ‘biological sex’ if they win the election.

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has claimed he wants to change “current confusion around definitions of sex and gender” for the “safety of women and girls.” 

It is illegal to discriminate against someone based on sex and seven other ‘protected characteristics’, as per the Equality Act 2010.

The proposals could see trans people blocked from entering single-sex spaces such as hospital wards, toilets and female prisons, regardless of whether or not they have a Gender Recognition Certificate (GRC).

Following the announcement, the PM tweeted: “Biological sex matters. We’re protecting women and girls.”

“We’ll clarify that sex in the law means biological sex and not new, redefined meanings” – Kemi Badenoch

Announcing on the Tories’ pledge, Equalities Minister Kemi Badenoch said: “Whether it is rapists being housed in women’s prisons, or instances of men playing in women’s sports where they have an unfair advantage, it is clear that public authorities and regulatory bodies are confused about what the law says on sex and gender and when to act – often for fear of being accused of transphobia, or not being inclusive.”

“That is why we are today pledging that, if we form a government after the election, we will clarify that sex in the law means biological sex and not new, redefined meanings of the word. The protection of women and girls’ spaces is too important to allow the confusion to continue.”

Badenoch told the BBC Radio 4’s Today programme yesterday: “We are trying to create a chilling effect for those men who are predators who are exploiting trans people and exploiting laws we have put in place to protect trans people.”

“What is happening at the moment is that people come to these centres, and they are visibly of a different sex,” Badenoch added. “If a rape crisis centre decides that it wants to allow a trans woman with a gender recognition certificate, they will be able to do so. If they choose not to, then they can’t be sued for that.”

The Equality Act 2010 – what is states

It is against the law to discriminate against anyone because of:  

1) Age 
2) Gender reassignment 
3) Being married or in a civil partnership 
4) Being pregnant or on maternity leave 
5) Disability 
6) Race including colour, nationality, ethnic or national origin 
7) Religion or belief
8) Sex 
9) Sexual orientation

These are called ‘protected characteristics.’

You’re protected from discrimination at work, in education, as a consumer, when using public services, when buying or renting property and as a member or guest of a private club or association.

The shake-up could also restrict trans and gender-diverse people’s ability to compete in sport. On this, Badenoch told Sky News that her party is “not giving instructions” to sporting bodies, but “making it very clear what the law is, that there is a difference between identifying as a different gender and what your biological sex is.”

“Trans women are not a threat”

Responding to the news, Liberal Democrat deputy leader Daisy Cooper said to the BBC: “If there are any examples of where a public service needs to have further guidance we’re happy to issue that guidance but let’s not pick apart legislation that reflects the hard-fought and hard-won protections given to women and trans women.”

TV star Carol Voderman meanwhile responded to Sunak’s aforementioned tweet saying: “I know you don’t often go to public places or anywhere you might mix with the public. But trains, planes, smaller restaurants, almost all cafes & new office spaces have unisex toilets. […] You really should get out more.”

Activist, actress and author Charlie Craggs meanwhile said on ITV News: “The Tories say they’re changing the legal definition of what a woman is to ‘protect woman and girls’ from trans women. But there are more Tory MPs with sexual assault charges against them than trans women. So if they want to protect women and girls, maybe they should start there. Trans women are not a threat. The Tories are.”

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