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EHRC faces criticism over advice on definition of “sex” in Equality Act

EHRC faces criticism over advice on definition of “sex” in Equality Act – The UK’s Equalities and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) has faced fresh criticism over its advice to define “sex” and “biological sex” in the Equality Act. Critics fear that the advice may help the government strip trans people of protections under the Act.

EHRC admits its definition of “biological sex” is “not trans”

read more: India’s government opposes same-sex marriage as Supreme Court hears landmark case


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The UN independent expert on sexual orientation and gender identity, Victor Madrigal-Borloz, met with an EHRC commissioner during a recent visit to the UK. He was shocked to learn that the commission had no clear definition for “biological sex”. Madrigal-Borloz reported that the EHRC conceded that in the context of the letter, the intended meaning of “biological sex” was to define women as “women who are not trans”. This would prevent trans women from making claims on the basis of sex-based discrimination.

Proposed change to the definition of “sex” under the Equality Act

read more: UK government moves towards banning trans people from same-sex spaces

The EHRC’s recommendation to change the definition of “sex” to “biological sex” followed a request for advice from women and equalities minister Kemi Badenoch. The proposed change would result in greater legal clarity in some areas, including the exclusion of trans men and women from sports and single-sex services such as hospital wards.

However, a coalition of not-for-profit organisations, including Stonewall, described the EHRC as a “failed institution” and accused it of failing to meet its basic duties in its reports on trans people since 2021.

EHRC denies intentions to lessen human rights protections

read more: EHRC advice on defining sex under the Equality Act prompts trans rights concerns

The EHRC has denied any intention to lessen human rights protections, stating that its advice was intended to achieve greater legal clarity in a complex area of law. The commission has a duty to advise the UK government on the effectiveness of Britain’s equality and human rights laws.

Elsewhere in his report, Madrigal-Borloz highlighted concerns around NHS waiting times for gender-affirming care and the lack of progress in the government’s promise to ban conversion therapy. He also noted that several UK institutions, including the government and the media, had contributed to bias-motivated incidents of harassment, threats and violence against LGBT people.

LGBTQ+ campaigners welcome the report as a “much-needed injection of common sense”

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Several LGBTQ+ campaigners have praised Madrigal-Borloz’s report as a “much-needed injection of common sense” into the discussion of LGBTQ+ rights in the UK. Amnesty International UK’s chief executive, Sacha Deshmukh, said that the rising rhetoric of trans rights in the UK and its impact on people’s lives and institutions is toxic and needs to be addressed.

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