The Chief Statistician of Scotland is consulting on erasing sex as a category for data collection for all public organisations. Except in a few cases, he is proposing that ‘gender identity’ replaces sex.
As Labour Women’s Declaration, we recognise that women and girls are subject to discrimination and oppression based on their sex.
This has huge implications for the lives of women and girls. Sex is a key determinant from the day we are born as female and live out our lives. How we fare in the fields of education and work, what we are paid, what pensions we receive is influenced by our sex. Health, social care, law, transport, design of cities: there isn’t a policy area where sex can be ignored. We are witnessing a roll back in women’s rights as a result of the pandemic; with women more likely to lose their jobs, or forced into part time work to try to manage childcare and other caring responsibilities. We know there is an issue with regard to young women and girls not participating in physical activity, but difficult to see how we change that if we cease to measure the data on the basis of sex. Women experience discrimination because of how society treats us on the basis of our sex.
We cannot talk about male violence against women if we cannot disaggregate data on the basis of sex. For example, Police Scotland now collates data on the basis of self-declared gender, so we cannot be sure if crimes that are recorded as being committed by women are actually by women or by men who claim to be the gender of women. The impact on female crime statistics may already be skewed. We know, thanks to robust data collection, that women commit far few sexual violence offences than men. It will not take many men declaring themselves to be female to dramatically alter those statistics and render them meaningless.
Sex is an objective, unchanging category. People cannot change sex. It is a defining characteristic of human beings. Sex is a word that is understood universally. Sex is defined in the Equality Act 210.
There is no such clear definition proposed for ‘gender identity’. It is a subjective feeling. A feeling of being a man or a woman, but no-one can explain what those feelings are without resorting to outdated and offensive stereoytpes, where being a woman amounts to no more than liking the colour pink, being quiet and obedient. There is no evidence gender identity exists beyond a belief some people have, and equally, many of us don’t. It is more akin to the category of religion. As with religious belief, it may well be a category that the state wishes to collect information about, but no reason as to why it should replace sex.
No evidence has been presented as to why this change is being made and what benefits will accrue from erasing sex as a category. The award-winning book “Invisible Women” by Caroline Criado-Perez highlighted the myriad of ways women are discriminated against. We face more risk of death in a car crash as seatbelts are designed with the average man’s body in mind, safety wear doesn’t fit as it designed for male bodies. Medical trials are conducted with men, so we don’t know what effect new procedures or drugs will have on women.
When we have the evidence that not collecting data on the basis of sex has such huge effects on women it is utterly incomprehensible that the proposal is now to get rid of the category altogether.
We ask that the Scottish Government abides by the Eurostat guidelines regarding data collection, which states that sex is a vital category. Without this, we will not be able to do any comparable studies with other European states.
There is no evidence from researchers, data users or the public that the erosion of sex as a category is desirable. There is no impact assessment on what impact the erosion of sex will have on future data collection. No women’s groups were consulted on the proposed change.
Every elected member should be receiving a copy of The Political Erasure of Sex by Lucy Mackenzie and Jane Clare Jones which is ”an overarching project which aims to document the process of policy capture in our public institutions, and how it is impacting the recognition and recording of biological sex in public policy, law, language, and data-collection.” We hope you will take time to read it.
We ask that you:
1) Support the retention of sex as a category in all data collection, including the census in 2022.
2) Any changes are subject to impact assessments
3) Any consultation on change is open and wide ranging and includes women as key stakeholders