Government slammed for ‘lukewarm’ commitment to transgender reforms
Labour and the Scottish National Party have questioned the government’s response to a report calling for urgent changes on trans issues.
Parliament’s Women and Equalities Committee, chaired by Conservative MP Maria Miller, released a landmark report on trans issues in January.
The committee recommended 35 separate reforms related to trans people: warning that the NHS is currently in violation of the law due to strained services, finding that the current process of gender recognition is not fit for purpose, and bolstering anti-discrimination protections.
The government finally released a reply to the report this month, and while it did commit to a review of the 2004 Gender Recognition Act, a large number of the recommendations were effectively rebuffed, with the Government Equalities Office merely committing to ‘continue to monitor the issue’ rather than pursue reform.
In Parliament this week, equalities minister Caroline Dinenage came under fire from the opposition.
Labour’s shadow equalities minister Angela Rayner said: “The Government took six long months to release their response to the Women and Equalities Committee report into transgender equality. LGBT campaigners have called the Government’s response ‘lots of polite words signifying precisely nothing’.
She asked: “Will the Minister explain why the Government rejected the Committee’s main recommendation that the protected characteristic in the Equality Act 2010 regarding trans people should be changed to ‘gender identity’?”
Meanwhile, the SNP Margaret Ferrier also questioned the report.
She said: “A number of organisations have conveyed disappointment at the Government’s response to the findings of the transgender inquiry conducted by the Women and Equalities Committee.
“Stonewall has questioned the Government’s insistence on further evidence, believing that they have sufficient evidence to take proper action.
“Does the Minister accept the assessment that this has been a lost opportunity to ensure that all trans and non-binary people are clearly protected in law, and will she commit herself to working with them and others to achieve true equality for all trans people?”
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Equalities minister Caroline Dinenage defended her work.
She said: “I do refute that. The response to the Women and Equalities Select Committee took representations from more than 12 different Government Departments and public bodies.
“It was an entirely comprehensive piece of work, and a very large number of the recommendations were accepted and are being followed up, not least the commitment to look again at the Gender Recognition Act 2004, which trans people tell me is disturbing, long winded and in much need of reform.
“This Department takes its commitment to trans people very seriously.”
She added: “I rebut the allegations that this has been a missed opportunity, given that we have taken on board so many of the Committee’s recommendations.
“The inquiry was a ground-breaking piece of work which has encouraged at least 12 Government organisations to look again at what they do, and to make some very strong and firm commitments to the transgender population to demonstrate that we support them and are paying attention to their needs.”