Statement on Women and Equalities Questions, 22 July 2020

Today, the last day of this sitting before the summer recess, there were questions to the Minister for Women and Equalities, Liz Truss. It had previously been said that a statement would come before the recess, responding to the GRA consultation. This did not happen, but questions alluded to that and related issues. Ms Truss’s key responses were as follows:

As the Prime Minister said, we will respond to the consultation over the summer. Let me be absolutely clear: we will not be rolling back the rights of transgender people. It is important that transgender people are able to live their lives as they wish, without fear, and we will make sure that that is the case.

I have been clear that the Government are committed to tackling the abhorrent practice of so-called gay-conversion therapy in the UK. As the Prime Minister reiterated earlier this week, this practice has no place in civilised society. Our action will be determined by research looking at how best to define conversion therapy, the scale of the issue, where it is happening and who it is happening to. When that research is complete, I will bring forward proposals to ban conversion therapy, making sure that our measures are effective so that no innocent people have to endure such tortuous practices.

We are as disappointed as some of those hoping for specific changes to the Gender Recognition Act that the Minister for Women and Equalities is still not coming out with a clear statement about the Conservative government’s intentions regarding the proposed reform. That this has been delayed to some unspecified time during the recess does not inspire confidence. However, we are pleased that Ms Truss has explained that there is to be no roll-back on trans rights, despite the implication from certain quarters that not making a change to self-ID constitutes a roll-back.

Any reform to the GRA must rely on evidence of need and have comprehensive Equality Impact Assessment for proposed changes. The impact of such reform on women’s and on lesbian, gay and bisexual rights must be fully assessed, including clarification of the interactions between the EA2010 and the GRA.

We are also concerned that nothing further has been said about strengthening the single-sex exceptions in the Equality Act, nor about protecting children and young people under 18 from making decisions about potentially life-changing treatment.

We are pleased that research is to be conducted regarding the prevalence and definition of gay conversion therapy, before any moves to present legislative or other proposals. We also note that this statement from Ms Truss referred quite explicitly to gay conversion therapy and not so-called ‘gender identity conversion therapy’.

We await the forthcoming statement.

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