Local councils around Britain have been forced to change legally inaccurate equalities information on their websites by women’s rights campaigners. Many authorities have been found to be in breach of the Equalities Act by stating that “gender” is a protected characteristic, as opposed to “sex,” and some authorities have listed the two terms interchangeably, which they have sought to rectify due to sustained campaigning.
Supported and encouraged by grassroots campaign group Women’s Place UK and others, women from across Britain are now writing to their local councils to ensure that they have the correct list of nine protected characteristics.
Clackmannanshire initially replied to queries by saying ‘Hi, we talk about gender discrimination rather then sex discrimination as it’s more inclusive.”
But after being challenged by campaigners have corrected their guidance
Derbyshire County Council were also initially defiant in the incorrect use of their terms
but after lots of women contacted them to challenge this position they agreed to change the wording
Some of the other councils who have corrected their guidance after lobbying by campaigners are Nottinghamshire, Stockport, West Oxfordshire, Wigan, Bournemouth, Salford, Winchester, Manchester City, Luton, Lambeth and Kensington & Chelsea, Pembrokeshire, Wrexham and Rhondda Cynon Taff.
The Welsh Government has also made the changes after being contacted by campaigners.
Women across the UK will continue to challenge councils and other organisations who are getting equality law wrong.
The 9 protected characteristics are
- Gender reassignment
- Marriage & civil partnership
- Pregnancy & Maternity
- Religion or belief
- Sexual orientation
A WPUK spokeswoman said, “So far we have found many policies that fail to comply with the Equality Act 2010 and ignore that sex should be protected by equality law. The reason we feel strongly about this is that it particularly impacts on the perception of what legal protections women have and the extent of the duties organisations have towards women. Some organisations are implying they will protect the concept of gender which most feminists think is a stereotypical notion of what being a woman is. The Equality Act protects those undergoing gender reassignment but this is a different category than that of sex.”
Whilst doing the audit of public sector equality policies WPUK found that the Equality and Human Rights Commission utilise the term sex/gender interchangeably which WPUK said, “This is worrying in that they make the climate for other organisations to follow and if they do not understand the importance of ‘sex’ as a protected characteristic how can others?”
Other organisations have acknowledged and apologised for their error and have begun changing their policies. Woman’s Place UK said “We are pleased by those organisations being willing to change. We hope this starts a national discussion about why the Equality Act 2010 exists and the importance of ‘sex’ as a protected characteristic. Women still have a long way to go before we have equal rights”.
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