Women’s Aid response to the government consultation on the Gender Recognition Act
Since the government first began consulting on changes to the Gender Recognition Act (GRA) in 2018, the debate on the potential impact of any changes on the provision of single-sex spaces and services, including for survivors of domestic abuse, has evolved and become extremely polarised.
The delays to, and lack of transparency on the process for, reform have been profoundly unhelpful and have fuelled the toxicity of discussions around this issue.
We are aware of the pain which has been caused to those who have expressed their views publicly on issues of identity and safety in the context of these proposed reforms. We condemn the abuse, threats and violent language that regularly accompanies discussions about these issues: respectful discussion and the consideration of alternative views are an essential part of any social democracy. Both misogyny and transphobia exist and are unacceptable in society.
As a domestic abuse charity for women and children, Women’s Aid have long advocated for the provision of women-only spaces. This is informed by evidence that specialist services by and for women, and those for Black and minoritised women, deaf and disabled women, and LGBT communities are vital to safety, recovery and empowerment. We also know that trans people face significant barriers in accessing safety and support for their experiences of domestic abuse. All victims and survivors of abuse should be able to access their fundamental rights to safety, dignity and support.
The GRA consultation process has surfaced strongly held views on how self-identification would interact with single sex provision. Our member services continue to tell us that the current law and guidance on how the ‘single-sex exceptions’ in the Equality Act work with the protected characteristic of gender reassignment, are unclear. Therefore, regardless of the outcome of the consultation, this remains a live concern for the domestic abuse sector and speaking to our members over the coming weeks is a priority for us. We are meeting with members, survivors and other stakeholders to better understand the current challenges they face and the needs that they have, so that we can target our support and guidance in response to this.