WRN EHRC GUIDELINES

THE WOMEN’S RIGHTS NETWORK WELCOMES NEW HUMAN RIGHTS GUIDANCE WHICH PROTECTS SINGLE-SEX SPACES 

For immediate release

April 4, 2022

 

Single-sex services are essential for the safety, privacy and dignity of women and the Women’s Rights Network welcomes today’s announcement from the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC).

 

This important step respects our sex and makes it clear that “sex” (as understood in the Equality Act 2010) refers to biological sex — which is observed and recorded on a person’s birth certificate.

 

WRN spokeswoman Heather Binning says, “Sex is not assigned. It is determined at the moment of conception. It is binary. It does not change and it shapes the lives of every woman and girl. Sex is how we are discriminated against. That was the case when the Act was drafted and remains the case to this day.

 

“Words matter, in law and in practice. But the conflation of sex and gender has done a huge disservice to women, girls and also to the LGBT community. Sex is determined by our chromosomes.”

 

This important difference is why WRN has joined forces with Sex Matters and Women Uniting to urge politicians to respect women’s sex-based rights if they want our vote. 

 

Heather says, “We have been inundated with requests to join and the Twitter hashtag #RespectMySex has now been trending nationally for four days.” Politicians can no longer delude themselves that this is not an issue on the doorstep.”

 

The latest EHRC guidance calls for service providers to have clear policies, accessible to everyone, to ensure that we all know whether a service or space is single-sex or mixed-sex.

 

Although a person’s legal sex can be changed with a gender recognition certificate, the EHRC states that this is not relevant for determining access to single-sex services such as women’s refuges, female-only health facilities and women’s prisons. 

 

“This straightforward guidance from the EHRC will help service providers to address the questions which are currently stumping so many politicians when they are asked about the difference between sex and gender identity,” Heather says.

 

The EHRC makes it clear that the Equality Act allows service providers and employers to provide separate facilities for women and men (or to offer them for one sex only) wherever this is a “proportionate means of achieving a legitimate aim” – such as maintaining dignity and privacy. 

 

This guidance — which makes it clear that single-sex services can be clearly signposted as accessible on the basis of biological sex — updates the 2010 Statutory Code of Practice. 

 

Unlike the updated guidance, the Code did not include an explicit recognition of the need for clear policies, or of the need to balance the rights of different service users.

 

In contrast, the new guidance says everyone’s rights must be considered, and provides examples of everyday situations in which a policy based on biological sex — and thus excludes all trans people from using the sex-specific spaces or services which do not align with their biological sex — is  lawful. These include:

 

  • Rape counselling for women

  • A women’s refuge 

  • A women’s fitness class

  • Communal changing rooms at a gym

  • Male and female toilets at a community centre

 

This clarity also removes the suggestion that providers should decide on a case-by-case basis whether to allow entry to an opposite-sex person according to their gendered presentation, such as clothing. 

 

The removal of this recommendation will help service providers avoid inadvertent indirect discrimination against other service users on the basis of sex.

 

It recognises that people want clearly delineated single-sex services for a range of reasons, including privacy, dignity, safety, religion and trauma, and that these are legitimate needs.

 

Heather says, “We have no doubt the EHRC will be accused of transphobia because it rejects Stonewall’s demands for ‘acceptance without exception’ and their attempts to replace sex with gender identity.”

 

Notes for editors:

The Women’s Rights Network [WRN] is a rapidly growing grass-roots movement which is coordinating national, regional and local actions to defend women’s sex-based rights and single-sex spaces.

 

The Network was launched in July 2021 and now has thousands of members across dozens of local groups. 

The Respect My Sex umbrella group is campaigning both nationally, and in key council elections, to encourage people to ask candidates and campaigners specific questions about women’s sex-based rights. It will encourage all candidates and all parties to get real about the reality of biological sex, and the need to protect science, free speech, and women’s sex-based rights.

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