I have written about a number of different topics that are impacting negatively on women and girls in Scotland and I’ve tried before to come up with a list that I could publish here but it always got too long. However, what I did come to realise was that they were all based around the current law that protects us, i.e. The Equality Act 2010. How strange it is to then find myself campaigning for the current law to be upheld and maintained, aren’t campaigns usually about wanting a change to the status quo? And that’s where we have the problem, somehow over time practices have been changing and they no longer align with the current law. Confusion on the understanding of what our protections are is widespread across most public authorities and this is what needs to be addressed. We need to undo the damage that has been done and we need clarity on the law to do that. So, here I am campaigning for the current practices to cease and request that the Government & Public Authorities perform their legal duties to the members of the public and do what is required of them within our current equality laws.
Below are my five aims, they are all closely linked with one another but I think if we can achieve these then we will be heading in right direction.
Aim #1 – Amend the definition of ‘Woman’ within the Gender Representation on Public Boards (Scotland) Act 2018 to accurately reflect the definition as per the Equality Act 2010. This Public Boards Act has set a UK precedent by redefining the meaning of ‘Woman’ to include self identifying women. A legal process already exists in the UK that enables trans people to have their preferred gender legally recognised and this Act weakens the importance of the requirements as set in the Gender Recognition Act 2004. The Equality Act 2010 acknowledges the fact that Women and Girls are discriminated against on the basis of their sex with the existence of the protected characteristic ‘Sex’. This Public Board Act now dilutes those legal protections by veering away from the definition of ‘Sex’, both biological and legal, and now sets a worrying precedent for all future legislation e.g. proposed Census Act amendments. The public consultation for this Bill did not include any proposals to redefine the meaning of ‘Woman’, as it was a late amendment agreed by the Committee and Government.
Aim #2 – Women’s and Girl’s Organisations who offer single sex services and/or spaces will receive clear factual guidance about the single sex exemptions as set out in the Equality Act 2010. This will empower those service providers to choose whether or not they then use those legally entitled exemptions. Any Government or Local Authority funding allocated to these organisations should not be based on the requirement that they are inclusive of trans people, regardless of the status of their legal gender. The workers, volunteers and most importantly the users of these services MUST be consulted if the organisations plan to no longer utilise the single sex exemptions. It must also be made explicitly clear to the users which organisations are no longer providing single sex services or spaces. Women and girls should be entitled to make informed choices about the spaces and services they use.
Aim #3 – Groups who receive Government funding to deliver Equality and Diversity training across a wide range of Public Authorities must make the material and guidance they provide publicly available. The information and materials must be reviewed for legal accuracy with particular attention to be paid to the correct definitions and understanding of the protected characteristics. Clear and accurate advice surrounding the use of single sex exemptions, as outlined within the Equality Act 2010, must be provided. Public bodies must be reminded of their requirements as per the Public Sector Equality Duties regulations during all training inputs.
Aim #4 – Policies, practices and guidance within all public sectors must be reviewed to ensure legal accuracy and compliance with the Equality Act 2010. Particular attention must be given to the protected characteristics, ensuring that correct definitions and understandings are clear. Where relevant, accurate guidance surrounding the use of the single sex exemptions, as outlined within the Equality Act 2010, must be provided. Full Equality Impact Assessments must always be completed especially if any change of policies or practice involves choosing not to apply single sex exemptions. This is of particular importance in services such as Women’s Prisons, Women’s refuges, Women and Girls sports, Single Sex Hospital Wards and any provision of single sex communal accommodation or changing room. Consultation with women’s groups and/or users of these services or spaces MUST always be carried out before any changes are implemented.
Aim #5 – Groups who receive Government or Local Authority funding to deliver teacher training and/or lessons to schoolchildren on the topics of LGBT or Equality and Diversity must make their material and guidance they provide publicly available. The information and materials must be reviewed for legal accuracy with particular attention to be paid to the correct understanding of the legal definitions being used. Parents must be notified before any inputs are delivered to their children and if required, their consent sought. Informed consent can only be given if lesson plans and material are known in advance. It is essential that lessons on these topics are delivered sensitively and contain a fair balance of views. The contentious public discourse reveals there is no agreement around the terms gender and gender identity, yet groups across the country are going into schools and teaching children a one sided view, and parents are not even informed.
I will write a more detailed blog for each of these Aims in due course, meanwhile here is my summary.
Aim #1 – Amend the definition of ‘Woman’ within the Public Boards Act to accurately reflect the definition as per the Equality Act 2010.
Aim #2 – Women’s and Girl’s Organisations who offer single sex services and/or spaces will receive clear factual guidance about the single sex exemptions.
Aim #3 – Groups who deliver Equality and Diversity training must make the material and guidance they provide publicly available and be reviewed for legal accuracy.
Aim #4 – Policies, practices and guidance within all public sectors must be reviewed to ensure legal accuracy and compliance with the Equality Act 2010.
Aim #5 – Groups delivering teacher training or lessons to schoolchildren on the topics of Gender must be fair & balanced, and parents are fully informed of the content.