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Rishi Sunak pledges to safeguard girls’ and women-only spaces for biological females by re-writing equality laws – if he wins the election

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Rishi Sunak last night pledged to rewrite equality laws to define sex as biological if he wins the election.

The landmark change would help safeguard girls’ and women-only spaces for biological females by stopping sex being conflated with gender identity, the Prime Minister said.

It would effectively rewrite part of the Equality Act so transgender women can be blocked from entering female-only spaces such as single-sex hospital wards, rape crisis centres, prison cells and lavatories, and from competing in women’s sports.

This would include transgender women who have had reconstructive surgery and those who have a Gender Recognition Certificate stating that they have changed gender. The new law would apply across the UK. 

At present, if organisers try to block transgender women from female-only spaces, they face legal challenges and being sued for discrimination.

Mr Sunak would kick-start the process for new primary legislation to clarify the law within days of a Conservative government being re-elected.

Rishi Sunak last night pledged to rewrite equality laws to define sex as biological if he wins the election

Rishi Sunak last night pledged to rewrite equality laws to define sex as biological if he wins the election

The landmark change would help safeguard girls' and women-only spaces for biological females by stopping sex being conflated with gender identity, the Prime Minister said

The landmark change would help safeguard girls’ and women-only spaces for biological females by stopping sex being conflated with gender identity, the Prime Minister said

Gender-critical campaigners, including former British Olympic swimmer Sharron Davies, welcomed the pledge as a victory for ‘common sense’.

The move is the Tories’ latest bid to put clear blue water between them and Labour ahead of polling day on July 4.

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer has previously suggested that no such law change was needed, having stated in 2022 that ‘trans women are women’ and that it’s wrong to say that ‘only women have a cervix’.

Writing in today’s Mail, Health Secretary Victoria Atkins says: ‘Labour would take this right back to square one. For years, they have aided and abetted those who put ideology above scientific facts.’

In August last year, the Mail revealed how shocking guidance drawn up by NHS chiefs meant patients who only occasionally identify as women are allowed to share female-only wards. This was regardless of whether they had had surgery or legally changed sex.

The project to rewrite part of the Equality Act on the basis of biological sex rather than gender identity was initially proposed by equalities minister Kemi Badenoch.

Last night she said: ‘Whether it is rapists being housed in women’s prisons, or instances of men playing in women’s sports where they have an unfair advantage, it is clear that public authorities and regulatory bodies are confused about what the law says on sex and gender and when to act – often for fear of being accused of transphobia, or not being inclusive.

Writing in today's Mail, Health Secretary Victoria Atkins said that Labour would take us back to square one

Writing in today’s Mail, Health Secretary Victoria Atkins said that Labour would take us back to square one 

‘That is why we are today pledging that, if we form a government after the election, we will clarify that sex in the law means biological sex and not new, redefined meanings of the word.’

Mr Sunak added: ‘The safety of women and girls is too important to allow the current confusion around definitions of sex and gender to persist.’

In April last year, the Equality and Human Rights Commission backed the proposed change.

Ms Davies, who has been campaigning to ensure trans women can’t compete in women’s sport, said: ‘I’m extremely pleased. There’s a very big difference between wanting to be something and actually being something.

‘I very much hope if it’s clarified we can now go after any and all sporting organisations that are discriminating against biological females by not offering equal opportunities of success in their own competitions, by allowing males in categories for females.’

Stephanie Davies-Arai, of Transgender Trend, said: ‘This is a return to common sense and reality from the Government.’

Heather Binning, of the Women’s Rights Network, said: ‘We welcome any party who pledges to preserve sex-based rights.’

The sex of those with a Gender Recognition Certificate will still align with their acquired gender in law outside the Equality Act, for example marriage law, as is the status quo.

Q&A

What is being proposed?

That new legislation is passed clarifying that ‘sex’ (male/female, man/woman) as referenced in the Equality Act 2010 refers to ‘biological sex’ and is not modified by a Gender Recognition Certificate (GRC).

Why is it needed?

It will clarify the law so that sex is not confused with gender and to stop it being interpreted as anything other than ‘biological sex’ assigned to someone at birth. The clarification will make it simpler for organisations to provide single-sex services and spaces because they will have more legal justification for excluding people from certain spaces based on their ‘biological sex’ at birth.

How will it happen?

A new piece of primary legislation, potentially only one or two sentences long, would be passed in Parliament clarifying that ‘sex’ in the Act refers to ‘biological sex’.

Why hasn’t this already been done?

This is unclear. Rishi Sunak signalled his support for the change last year. The election has pushed the issue up the agenda as a way of differentiating the Tories from Labour.



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