On 27th July a new Select Committee inquiry into Transgender Equality was launched. The initial press release is below:
The Women and Equalities Committee is undertaking an inquiry into equality for transgender people.
The inquiry will consider how far, and in what ways, trans people still have yet to achieve full equality; and how the outstanding issues can most effectively be addressed.
The deadline for written evidence is 21 August and oral evidence sessions will be in September. The committee will be consulting more widely on its future work and priorities later in September.
Committee Chair Maria Miller said:
“Many trans people still face discrimination and unfair treatment in their work, schools, healthcare and other important services. Transphobia and hate crimes are a cruel reminder that we have still have a great deal to do to achieve true equality for everyone. I hope that trans people will feel able to share their experiences with our inquiry, so that the committee can make recommendations for improving people’s lives.”
The committee invites evidence submissions regarding the following issues in particular:
- terminology and definitions, and the availability and reliability of data, relating to the trans community;
- the relationship between the Government Equalities Office and other government departments in dealing with transgender equality issues and how the UK’s performance compares internationally;
- the operation of the Gender Recognition Act 2004 and whether it requires amending;
- the aspect of the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Act 2013 which is referred to as the “spousal veto”;
- the effectiveness of the Equality Act 2010 in relation to trans people;
- employment and workplace issues (including in the Armed Forces) affecting trans people;
- transphobia (including the portrayal of trans people in the media) and hate crime against trans people;
- issues affecting trans people in the criminal justice system;
- issues concerning the diagnosis of gender dysphoria, including the operation of NHS Gender Identity Clinics;
- access to gender reassignment treatment under the NHS;
- trans people and wider NHS services;
- NHS services for trans youth;
- issues concerning trans youth in the education system; and
- issues concerning trans youth and social care services (including looked-after children).
The Committee welcomes submissions from individuals as well as organisations. For guidance on submitting evidence, please see the note below. Detailed guidance on giving evidence to committees is available here.
In the autumn the committee will be actively seeking a wide range of views about its future work programme. Further details will be announced in September.
Committee Chair Maria Miller said:
“The committee has a very broad remit, covering age; disability; gender reassignment; marriage and civil partnership; pregnancy and maternity; race; religion or belief; sex; and sexual orientation. We are keen to hear views on specific issues which the committee should consider in its future work, and we welcome ideas from everyone.”
The Committee is also planning work on women in executive management once the final Davies Review reports in October.
NB Trans inquiry: further info and useful links for non-specialist media below
1 The Women and Equalities Committee
The Committee was appointed by the House of Commons on 3 June 2015 to examine the expenditure, administration and policy of the Government Equalities Office (GEO) and associated public bodies.
The Committee has the same powers as other departmental select committees, but has been established only until the end of the current Parliament.
The Government Equalities Office
The GEO is responsible for equality strategy and legislation across government. It works to take action on the government’s commitment to remove barriers to equality and help to build a fairer society. In particular it is responsible for:
- implementing the 2010 Equality Strategy, coordinating the Inter-Ministerial Group on Equalities;
- taking the lead on the Equality Act 2010, and being the lead department on issues relating to women, sexual orientation and transgender equality;
- supporting and implementing international equality measures in the UK, including our international commitments to the UN Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW), the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action, and the European Union Roadmap for Equality between Women and Men;
- Sponsoring the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC).
The GEO works across government, but the two key departments are:
- the Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG), which leads on wider race and religion and belief policies;
- the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) / Office of Disability Issues (ODI), which leads on disability equality. DWP is also a key player on age discrimination, given its pensions remit.
Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC)
The EHRC replaced the Equal Opportunities Commission, Commission for Racial Equality and the Disability Rights Commission with a single equality body. It is a non-departmental public body in England, Wales and (in part) Scotland, responsible for monitoring compliance with the EqA 2010.
Equality Act 2010
The Equality Act 2010 (EqA) protects people from discrimination or unfair treatment on the basis of nine “protected characteristics”: age; disability; gender reassignment; marriage and civil partnership; pregnancy and maternity; race; religion or belief; sex; sexual orientation. It prohibits discrimination in a variety of contexts: services and public functions; management of premises; employment; education; associations.
The Act also contains provisions relating to equal pay, and the public sector equality duty.
It repealed, replaced and in large measure consolidated the principles of forgoing equality legislation. The Act represents a codification of UK equality law, which is part domestic in origin, part derived from EU law.
2 Transgender inquiry: further info for non-specialist media
“Transgender” (or “trans”) is an umbrella term describing people whose gender identity (the gender with which they associate themselves) and / or gender expression (how they outwardly show their gender) differs from what is typically associated with the sex assigned to them at birth. Trans people may describe themselves using a wide variety of other terms.
Many trans people are prescribed hormones and / or undergo surgery as a way of expressing their gender identity. However, not all trans people take such steps; and trans identity does not depend on undergoing any form of medical treatment.
In 2007 the then government recognised that there is a lack of good statistical data regarding gender reassignment and trans people in general. A subsequent Equality Data Review by the Office for National Statistics confirmed that there was a lack of data on the trans community.
The number of GRCs issued provides some indication but holders of GRCs do not constitute the entire trans community. Estimates of the overall size of the community vary from as low as 65,000 to as high as 300,000.
Trans equality and the law
Since 1999 a number of legal steps have been taken regarding equality for trans people. The Gender Recognition Act 2004 provides a mechanism for someone to be legally recognised in their adopted gender. The Equality Act 2010 effectively makes being a trans person a “protected characteristic” on the grounds of which it is illegal to discriminate against someone.
Doubt has been expressed about the effectiveness of the current legal provisions, given that a range of equality issues still confront trans people
The Gender Recognition Act 2004 allows trans people to apply to a Gender Recognition Panel for a Gender Recognition Certificate (GRC). This allows the holder to be recognised for all legal purposes as belonging to their acquired gender: for instance, the record of their birth can be amended to reflect their acquired gender. The Act applies to the whole of the United Kingdom.
The Equality Act 2010 effectively makes being a trans person a “protected characteristic” on the grounds of which it is illegal to discriminate against someone. S 7 of the Equality Act 2010 refers to the protected characteristic of “gender reassignment”, which a person has if he / she “is proposing to undergo, is undergoing or has undergone a process (or part of a process) for the purpose of reassigning the person’s sex by changing physiological or other attributes of sex” – and such a person is referred to in the statute as a “transsexual person”.
However, “gender reassignment” here doesn’t mean only the medical procedure that would usually be associated with that term; the “process” referred to here could simply be dressing differently, changing one’s name, etc. And the term “transsexual” in the law thus doesn’t just apply (as might be assumed) to people who’ve undergone (or are intending to undergo) medical treatment – it effectively has the broader meaning associated with the term “transgender”.
Doubt has been expressed about the effectiveness of the current legal provisions, given that a range of equality issues still confront trans people.
The government recently published a five-year post-legislative report on the 2010 Act. The report has very little to say on being “transsexual” as a “protected characteristic”; and it shows that only 1% of enquiries received about the Act have been in respect of this aspect of it.
3 How to submit evidence to the committee
To successfully make a submission via the online form, documents need to:
- Be less than 25 MB in size
- Be in Word (doc, docx, rtf, txt ooxml or odt format, not PDF)
- Contain as few logos or embedded pictures as possible
- Contain no macros
- Comprise a single document. If there are any annexes or appendices, these should be included in the same document.
It also assists the committee if you:
- State clearly who the submission is from, i.e. whether from yourself in a personal capacity or sent on behalf of an organisation, for example the submission could be headed ‘Written evidence submitted by 21 August 2015
- Are concise – we recommend no more than 3,000 words in length
- Begin with an executive summary in bullet point form of the main points made in the submission
- Include a brief introduction about yourself/your organisation and your reason for submitting evidence
- Have numbered paragraphs
- Include any factual information you have to offer from which the committee might be able to draw conclusions, or which could be put to other witnesses for their reactions
- Include any recommendations for action by the Government or others which you would like the committee to consider.
Please also note that:
- Committees publish most of the written evidence they receive on the internet (where it will be accessible to search engines).
- If you do not wish your submission to be published, you must clearly say so and explain your reasons for not wishing its disclosure. The committee will take this into account in deciding whether to publish. If you wish to include private or confidential information in your submission to the committee, please contact the clerk of the committee to discuss this.
- A committee is not obliged to accept your submission as evidence, nor to publish any or all of the submission even if it has been accepted as evidence. This may occur where a submission is very long or contains material to which it is inappropriate to give parliamentary privilege.
- Material already published elsewhere should not form the basis of a submission, but may be referred to within a submission, in which case it should be clearly referenced, preferably with a hyperlink.
- You should be careful not to comment on matters currently before a court of law, or matters in respect of which court proceedings are imminent. If you anticipate such issues arising, you should discuss with the clerk of the committee how this might affect your submission.
- Once submitted, no public use should be made of any submission prepared specifically for the committee unless you have first obtained permission from the clerk of the committee. If you are given permission by the committee to publish your evidence separately, you should be aware that you will be legally responsible for its content.
- Committees do not normally investigate individual cases of complaint or allegations of maladministration.
5 Lord Davies Review
Following a review by Lord Davies of Abersoch a report, known as the Davies Review, was published in February 2011. The report used the number of women on FTSE 350 corporate boards as a starting point. It considered the business case for having gender-diverse boards and set out some recommendations for achieving urgent change. The report recommended that companies registered on the stock exchange should be required to disclose each year the proportion of women on boards, women in senior executive positions and female employees in the whole organisation. It also recommended that there should be 25% female representation on boards by 2015. To monitor progress annual reports have been by published by the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS), together with six-monthly updates. The final report for the review is due to be published in October 2015.
 See section 3