Sex matters and the new government

The UK has a new prime minister and we now know there will be a new Labour government, with a significant majority in the House of Commons. The Labour Party has pledged to provide greater support for victims of violence against women and greater protection for women’s rights at work; to give employers clear guidance on how to comply with the law; and to bring in new professional standards and improve administration in the NHS and social care.

The new government will not be able to do any of this unless it finds the courage to be clear that sex is real and that sex matters. If it gives in to pressure to obfuscate sex-based language and data, and if it allows those who stand up for clarity, integrity and safeguarding to be terrorised at work, it will fail to achieve its stated goals. 

The message that sex matters got through loud and clear during the general-election campaign, thanks to thousands of people who wrote to candidates, talked to canvassers on the doorstep, asked questions at hustings and called in to radio shows. 

The question of whether the Equality Act is currently working to protect women’s rights made it into the political mainstream during the last parliament, thanks to all of your efforts. It will not be going away. 

Sex Matters is sad to lose some of the MPs who made that happen, and who contributed so much to the debate, including Joanna Cherry, Neale Hanvey, Miriam Cates, Peter Bottomley and Nick Fletcher. But be assured that we have been working hard to ensure that incoming MPs and likely cabinet members understand the issues, and we will be providing briefings, seeking meetings and mobilising supporters to get our message across. 

Labour’s position on sex and gender has improved during the past two years, and in particular during the past six weeks, with Keir Starmer recognising that men who identify as women do not have the right to use women’s single-sex services, even if they have a certificate from the government. As the party that wrote the Equality Act, Labour knows that single-sex provision is not a special concession provided solely for women’s refuges and rape-crisis centres. Women’s rights matter wherever they are: at work, in education, in toilets and changing-rooms in public places, and in sports. Trans women are not women, and unless women can say that clearly in every setting, every provision intended to protect women can be weaponised against them.

Protecting children is fundamental. The government must finish the job of giving schools clear guidance on both gender-questioning children and age-appropriate relationships, health and sex education (RHSE). It must follow through on its commitment to implement the recommendations of the Cass Review. Emergency legislation temporarily restricting the private prescription of puberty blockers needs to be made permanent. We were delighted to see that Dr Hilary Cass will be sitting as a crossbench peer in the House of Lords.

One of the first decisions for the incoming government will be whether to keep Kishwer Falkner as chair of the Equality and Human Rights Commission, or to replace her. She has already seen off a concerted campaign of harassment led by Stonewall. Whether or not she is granted the second term she was widely expected to be offered will be an early test of whether Labour will demonstrate integrity and stand up to the bullying of the gender-identity lobby. 

We are looking forward to working with the new government to make sure that everyone’s rights are protected. Sex matters in life and in law, and it shouldn’t take courage to say so.