Response to the TUC’s letter to Kemi Badenoch

Read the TUC letter here.

Response to the TUC’s letter to Kemi Badenoch about the Equality Act:

The TUC’s letter demonstrates a worrying ignorance of current equalities law. It demonstrates no awareness of the needs of women and girls, nor respect for the battles that our foremothers in the labour movement fought for our rights. We are proud to continue their struggle in solidarity and sisterhood with all women workers. –WPUK

The Trades Union Congress has written to the Minister for Women and Equalities, Rt Hon Kemi Badenoch, arguing that there is no need to amend the current definition of sex in the Equality Act. The Equality Act’s use of ‘sex’ is generally interpreted to mean legal sex. At Badenoch’s request, the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) provided her with guidance on the consequences of defining sex in the Equality Act as biological sex. The EHRC concluded that this change would ‘bring greater legal clarity’ to key areas, specifically regarding the rights of women and girls.  

The TUC erroneously claims that this change would be detrimental to trans people, especially to transwomen (biological males who choose to identify as women). Below, we examine and refute each of the TUC’s statements: 

1]  ‘Transwomen would not be entitled to make equal pay claims’. This is wrong. The Equality Act identifies nine protected characteristics WPUK: SEX IS A PROTECTED CHARACTERISTIC. One of these is sex. It is unlawful to pay a woman less than a man (or vice versa) on the grounds of her sex. Another protected characteristic is gender reassignment, and it is this which protects trans people, including trans women from discrimination on the basis of their chosen gender. Amending the Equality Act’s definition of sex would not change the protected characteristic of gender reassignment. 

2]  ‘Transwomen would not be able to ‘use appropriate toilets in the workplace’. There are excellent reasons why toilets should be single-sex. The safety of women and girls is endangered if toilet provision and changing room provision is not single sex: one investigation found that almost 90 per cent of complaints regarding sexual assaults and harassment relate to incidents in mixed-sex facilities. WPUK MIXED SEX TOILETS MODEL LETTER. Employers have a duty of care to all their employees, including women. We offer more details here of why single-sex facilities are vital for women workers LUCY MASOUD  #WPUKPosrtsmouth.

3]  ‘Transwomen would not be entitled to make sex discrimination claims’. This is incorrect. A trans identified person who is discriminated against on grounds of sex, would be able to bring a sex discrimination claim. For example, a transman (a biological female) who is paid less than men doing comparable work, solely because of their sex, can bring a sex discrimination case. Clarifying the definition of sex in the Equality Act would make clear that everyone is entitled to protection from sex discrimination, regardless of their gender identity. If a trans identifying person is subject to discrimination on the basis of gender reassignment s/he can pursue legal recourse because gender reassignment is a protected characteristic. That will not change.

4]  ‘Reform would ‘remove the ability of trans people to gain legal recognition of their gender identity’. This is untrue. The Gender Recognition Act (2004) allows people to change their legal sex and obtain a Gender Recognition Certificate (GRC). Amending the Equality Act would not change that right. The TUC appears to be arguing that trans identifying people, by being denied access to spaces and services restricted to members of the opposite sex, would be unable to live in their acquired gender for two years, (the current obligation to obtain a GRC). However, there are many ways that applicants can prove they have fulfilled this criterion; and there are also good reasons why the TUC should focus on opposing this requirement for a GRC. We have argued that the obligation to live in one’s acquired gender should not be a requirement for obtaining a GRC, because this involves performing rigid gender roles, perpetrating sexist stereotypes to which many feminists and trans identifying people are opposed WPUK: GRA CONSULATATION SUBMISSION. The TUC’s focus on trans identified people who have changed their legal sex ignores the many trans people who choose not to do so. As the EHRC’s guidance to Badenoch points out, many trans people prefer to identify as having a fluid gender rather than as having a fixed male or female gender identity; the ability to change their legal sex is of no benefit to them. The TUC also fails to recognise that the protected characteristic of gender reassignment protects all trans people, with and without a GRC.  

WPUK: Response to the TUC’s letter to Kemi Badenoch about the Equality Act.



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