Rishi Sunak ‘wants to gut trans rights from Equality Act’
Prime minister Rishi Sunak is reportedly planning to remove legal protections for trans people from the Equality Act 2010.
According to The Telegraph, Sunak is planning to “review the Equality Act to make it clear that sex means biological sex rather than gender”.
Currently, the Act protects people from discrimination on the basis of both sex and “gender reassignment”.
Under the latter, trans people are protected regardless of whether they have undergone or plan to undergo medical transition, and regardless of whether or not they hold a Gender Recognition Certificate (GRC), the document by which a person can change their legal gender.
It means trans people can access single-sex spaces such as shelters, bathrooms and hospital wards – but according to The Telegraph, Rishi Sunak would remove these rights.
The Telegraph also reports: “It would also mean clarifying that self-identification for transgender people does not have legal force, meaning transgender women have no legal right to access women-only facilities.”
Because a trans person doesn’t need to have legally changed their gender marker to access these spaces, it’s often said that they are ‘self-identifying’.
The Tories, under Theresa May, once pledged to move towards a wider system of ‘self-identification’, which would have allowed trans people to obtain a GRC without undergoing medical evaluation. These plans have since been dropped amid a climate of transphobia.
You might think of human rights protections as a bit like pitons for a mountaineer. When you're on the way up they are a pain to have to spend time on – they slow things down. But they are incredibly important if things go wrong later.
— Jo Maugham (@JolyonMaugham) October 29, 2022
Jolyon Maugham, director of the Good Law Project, commented on the reports via Twitter, explaining: “Undoubtedly, the political temperature is hugely hostile in England to trans people. They are friendless in the legacy media and the Tories, like every ugly autocrat ever, are looking for distractions.
“Things are going wrong and the Equality Act has become hugely important.
“Legally, there is nothing to stop the Tories from changing the Equality Act.
“They have a majority in parliament and our (abject) so-called ‘constitution’ says that Sunak, if he can carry parliament, can remove the rights of whichever friendless minority he decides to target.”
But Maugham said he does not think it is likely that Sunak will dismantle the Equality Act.
He continued: “What will the Tories do once cis women are made ‘safe’ by banning trans women from women’s bathrooms? They’ll need a new scapegoat, one where legacy media is unlikely to be so unified.
“And enacting the argument will expose why it is nonsense – how will he police the use of women’s bathrooms, how will it stop male sex offenders – and draw huge flack.
“What will cis women who don’t want to conform to patriarchal presentations think about Rishi’s toilet police?”
But journalist Michelle Snow, co-founder of the podcast What the Trans!?, was less sure.
She tweeted that she had previously felt “confident” that a major legislative attack on the trans community was unlikely, explaining: “The Johnson government set out a manifesto and not once did they say they would move on the Equality Act.
“Actually, that has been the line of the government (both Boris Johnson’s and Liz Truss’s) that the Equality Act is not going to be touched ‘at this time’.
“But now we are onto our third PM in the last six months… who knows what is still the plan and what is changing?”
She added: “Keep your eye on Sunak’s government making any announcements directly about the equality act or any ‘review’ they may do.
“We won’t know anything until then.”
Rishi Sunak is certainly not above using trans rights as a political football, as his first Tory leadership campaign proved.
Earlier this year, he voiced his plans to “review” the Equality Act, saying in a speech: “We are determined to end the brainwashing, the vandalism and the finger-pointing.
“Too often, existing legislation is used to engage in social engineering to which no one has given consent.
“The worst offender in this regard is the 2010 Equality Act, conceived in the dog days of the last Labour government.
“It has been a Trojan horse that has allowed every kind of woke nonsense to permeate public life.
“It must stop. My government would review the act to ensure we keep legitimate protections while stopping mission creep.”
PinkNews has contacted Downing Street for comment.