I have received correspondence from constituents both supporting and disagreeing with reforming the Gender Recognition Act 2004 (GRA).
I know that colleagues in the Government Equalities Office have been doing a lot of work recently to form their response to the consultation. Understandably, the Coronavirus outbreak has complicated things somewhat, but I have received reassurances from the Department that they plan to publish their response in the summer. As this is a complex issue, the Department has said that they needed time to consider the results of the consultation before taking action.
I am absolutely committed to protecting women’s rights and freedoms. I completely understand that reforming the GRA is a complex and sensitive issue, which is why it is important for everyone’s views to be heard and listened to. The Minister for Women and Equalities has recently said that any reforms will ensure the protection of single-sex spaces. I recognise that concerns have been raised both for and against this and the Government has confirmed that, where it is a proportionate means of meeting a legitimate aim, it would still, as with the Equality Act 2010, be possible to exclude trans people from single- and separate-sex services. To explain further, not letting a transwoman go to the toilet in a pub is likely to be unlawful. But a female only domestic violence refuge may provide a separate service to a transwoman.
I know that many people also have concerns about the impact of this legislation on children. I have raised this with colleagues in the Government and Equalities Office who have assured me of their commitment to ensuring under 18s are protected from making decisions that are irreversible in the future. It is my belief that adults should have the freedom to live their life however they choose but I do think it is very important we protect young adults, who might still need more time to make such life-altering decisions, from taking action which they potentially cannot reverse.
This does not mean that the Government does not support young people who want to change their gender. We recognise there has been an increase in referrals of children and adolescents to gender-identity services and so we want to make sure that we improve our understanding of the impacts on young people and go further to support those who feel their gender impacts their mental health and wellbeing.
I know there are people who feel strongly on both sides of the debate and I appreciate your comments. This is certainly a complex area to reform and I will take the time to study the detail of the consultation response in due course.