WPUK position on Gillick Competence and Fraser Guidelines

The significant legal case, courageously pursued by Keira Bell, has provoked discussions around the Gillick competence and the Fraser Guidelines. Here is what we said on these issues in response to the statement by Liz Truss to the Women & Equalities Committee in April 2020.

Liz Truss

“Finally, which is not a direct issue concerning the Gender Recognition Act, but is relevant, making sure that the under 18s are protected from decisions that they could make, that are irreversible in the future. I believe strongly that adults should have the freedom to lead their lives as they see fit, but I think it’s very important that while people are still developing their decision-making capabilities that we protect them from making those irreversible decisions.”

WPUK Comment

We are pleased to see the Government recognise the very serious concerns regarding young people suffering from gender dysphoria. In particular, we have highlighted the huge increase in young women being referred to specialist gender identity services. We would like to see appropriate support from trained professionals for young people with gender dysphoria as they move into adulthood.

The principle of Gillick competence established that parents have no right to veto medical treatment to which a minor, fully understanding what is proposed, consents. The statement by Liz Truss has no bearing on this principle. Having the maturity and understanding to consent relates to:

“the complexity and importance of the decision to be made. A young person who has the capacity to consent to straightforward, relatively risk-free treatment may not necessarily have the capacity to consent to complex treatment involving high risks or serious consequences.” (GMC, 0–18 years: guidance for all doctors).

As a feminist organisation we fully support the Gillick test of competence, as well as the Fraser Guidelines which specifically relate only to the issue of giving contraceptive advice and treatment to those under 16 without parental consent.


11th October 2020

Read our full response to the statement by Liz Truss.

We believe that it is important to share a range of viewpoints on women’s rights and advancement from different perspectives. WPUK does not necessarily agree or endorse all the views that we share.