Justine Greening challenges government to keep up work on sex ed and equality
From the backbenches, ousted minister Justine Greening has urged the government to carry on her equalities work.
Ms Greening, the most senior out politician in the country, resigned from government this week after Prime Minister Theresa May attempted to move her from her role as Secretary of State for Education and Minister for Women and Equalities.
The politician had been the driving force behind plans for LGBT-inclusive sex education in schools, as well as gender recognition reform.
But responsibility for equality issues will now be handed to Home Secretary Amber Rudd.
Ms Greening was present in the Commons chamber this morning to challenge Ms Rudd from the backbenches, urging her to keep up work on equality.
The former minister said: “First of all I’d like to congratulate the Home Secretary on her expanded role. I know she will do a brilliant job.”
“She will know that young people, parents and teachers think it’s vital in a modern internet world to see sex and relationship education updated.
“Can she confirm that the government will push ahead with updating the guidance that is now so out of date, and also if she will meet with myself, [Women and Equalities Select Committee chair Maria Miller MP], and also [Labour’s Sarah Champion MP], to make sure we can have a cross party support for the work that is being undertaken?”
Ms Rudd responded: “Can I start by thanking the Rt Hon Lady for the enormous good work that she did in this role, and I will try my best to keep up the momentum that she provided.
“One of the fantastic things that she did was lead on making sure that sex and relationship education is going to be provided in all schools.
“I will be delighted to work with her to make sure that that is the case, and also across the house to make sure the outcome is one that the whole house can support, as I know that everybody believes this is an important issue.”
Proposals for LGBT-inclusive sex education were put out to consultation last month, as part of a wider review of guidance on sex and relationship education in schools.
Ms Greening was a strong advocate of LGBT-inclusive SRE, which was rumoured to have been previously blocked by Conservative officials.
The Home Secretary also inherits her work on the Gender Recognition Act, which allows transgender people to gain legal recognition in their preferred gender.
With support from Prime Minister Theresa May, Ms Greening had laid the ground for a review on the issue, which would aim to eliminate many of the medical and bureaucratic hurdles that trans people are currently required to navigate in order to gain recognition.
However, those plans may have already fallen into trouble – with a review reportedly delayed due to the “divisive” nature of the issue amid an anti-trans media campaign.
Rudd, who has been Home Secretary since 2016, has a record of consistently voting in favour of same-sex marriage and gay rights.
On her website, Rudd had previously written that she was “pleased that the Government announced it will keep issues such as gender self-declaration under consideration”.
She wrote: “I am exceptionally proud that this Government has put a commitment to equality at the heart of its mission. Ministers are working hard to build a society that celebrates and benefits from the talents of everyone, ensuring fairness, protecting the most vulnerable and prioritising equal opportunities for all.
“The UK has been a world leader for transgender rights, and I welcome the progress that we have already made. The Government has provided guidance to employers and service providers, ensured that transphobic bullying is tackled head on and published the first ever action plan on transgender equality.
“More must, however, be done to help transgender people with the unique and often difficult challenges that they face. I look forward to a new action plan for transgender equality that is currently being developed, in addition to reviews across a range of Government services to see how they can better serve transgender people.
“I was particularly pleased to see the Government reaffirm that gender dysphoria is no longer considered to be a mental illness. The Government has also committed to building a better evidence base by carrying out a project on the size and composition of the transgender population, and will begin measuring social attitudes towards transgender people.
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“I was pleased that the Government announced it will keep issues such as gender self-declaration under consideration. The Gender Recognition Act will also be reviewed in order to see whether improvements can be made to streamline and de-medicalise the gender recognition process.
“As a country, we have come a long way in terms of lesbian, gay and bisexual equality. I now want to see the same national determination for transgender people. I hope the Government will continue to work closely with transgender people, and continue working to create a society where everyone is free to be themselves. “
She has taken several steps to protect the LGBT community in Britain and raised awareness for HIV/AIDS treatment when she took an HIV test in November.
That made her the most senior minister to ever publicly take the test in Britain.
Rudd also wrote for PinkNews in July, ahead of Pride in London, emphasising that “we need to ensure hate crimes are tackled”.