Sajid Javid accused of ‘regressive attempt to roll back’ trans rights after NHS intervention
Health secretary Sajid Javid has reportedly “welcomed” guidance from the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) explaining how trans women can lawfully be excluded from female-only spaces.
The EHRC issued new guidance on Monday (4 April), stating that single-sex spaces including hospital wards, lavatories, changing rooms and refuges can limit access to trans people if it “is a proportionate means of achieving a legitimate aim”.
This has always been true under the Equality Act 2010, and the EHRC guidance is merely that – guidance. However, the equalities watchdog drew criticism for effectively giving service providers a how-to guide on excluding trans people.
Stonewall told PinkNews: “It appears to go against the core presumption of the [Equality] Act which is that inclusion should be the starting point, and shifts the focus towards reasons trans people, and specifically trans women, can be excluded.”
On Friday (8 April), The Telegraph reported a senior government source as saying Sajid Javid “welcomes” the EHRC’s new guidance, and that he will be “asking the NHS to take it fully into account as part of the review into same-sex wards”.
It comes after Javid was criticised for saying trans kids may be “suffering from child sex abuse” or bullying while defending Boris Johnson’s decision to drop a ban on trans conversion therapy.
NHS guidelines since 2019 include “annex B” which sets out provisions for trans patients; under this guidance, trans people “should be accommodated according to their presentation: the way they dress, and the name and pronouns they currently use”.
This is not dependent on surgery, medical transition or having a Gender Recognition Certificate (GRC).
All patients, including women and transgender people, should feel comfortable and safe in hospital.
It's not wrong to look at whether guidance is right, or how it's being applied, to reassure everyone.
I’ve asked @DHSCgovuk for fresh advice.
— Sajid Javid (@sajidjavid) August 3, 2021
In August 2021, Sajid Javid ordered a review of this guidance, saying that he would ask the Department of Health and Social Care for fresh advice on the subject.
“All patients, including women and transgender people, should feel comfortable and safe in hospital,” he said at the time.
“It’s not wrong to look at whether guidance is right, or how it’s being applied, to reassure everyone. I’ve asked… for fresh advice.”
Now, it appears the EHRC guidance will be taken into account in its review of single-sex hospital wards in the NHS.
Trans-led charity Gendered Intelligence said that the new EHRC guidance “will not benefit patients or improve safety or comfort”.
The charity told PinkNews: “Trans and non-binary people have been accommodated in boilerplate NHS accommodation without any issues for years.
“All inpatients are risk-assessed as a matter of course, and there are even robust exemptions in existing policies for, for instance, trans men undergoing hysterectomies who may not want to be accommodated on a male ward.
“This new focus on how the EHRC guidance might be applied to exclude trans people is a regressive attempt to roll back existing, functional policies.
“This will not benefit patients or improve safety or comfort – in fact, those most likely to be affected are gender non-conforming cisgender women, who, as we have seen in the US, end up being harassed and excluded when they are perceived as trans.”
“Trans and non-binary patients and service users should not be made to feel as though they do not have the same rights to safety as cisgender individuals, nor that they themselves are considered a risk to safety.”
We have published a new practical guide to the law for providers of single-sex spaces 📄
This will help service providers to make lawful decisions about any services they offer to women and men separately.
Read more: https://t.co/F1Wf1DmtrR
— EHRC (@EHRC) April 4, 2022
Research by LGBT+ charity Stonewall has found that one in seven LGBT+ people avoid seeking medical help because they fear discrimination, CEO Nancy Kelley told the i in August 2021.
Speaking after Sajid Javid’s announcement the government would review guidance, Kelly said: “It’s vital that the NHS continues to work towards creating an LGBTQ+ inclusive healthcare system in which all lesbian, gay, bi and trans people are given the care and support that they need.”
The Department of Health and Social Care did not immediately respond to PinkNews‘ request for comment.