Stand up for single-sex services

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What are single-sex services?

Everyday spaces

Places where everyone feels safer taking their clothes off with single-sex privacy: changing rooms, showers, toilets, spaces for health and social care, hospital wards, dormitories. See the key findings from our survey on why single-sex services matter.

Clubs and associations

Groups for women and girls such as Girl Guides, Women's Institute, La Leche League and clubs for lesbians, and for men and boys such as Men's Sheds and clubs for gay men. Learn more from our report Lesbians without liberty.


Sports that are fair and safe for women and girls training and competing at every level from elite sport to school sport and recreational activities. Read Fair Play For Women's report on “inclusion” in sport.

Specialist services

Services that safeguard women and men at their most vulnerable: women's refuges, rape-crisis centres, prison and probation services, drug rehabilitation. See the summary of our recent report on the women’s sector.

What’s the problem?

The law allows single-sex services, and most people want them, but they are under attack.

Organisations and their staff are confused, even though everybody knows the difference between male and female.

Language has become a battleground and everyone is walking on eggshells.

No one wants to be the one to tell someone that their sense of gender identity cannot override rules that protect the safety, fairness and dignity of everyone.

  • Confusion makes services less inclusive and less safe. It creates conflict and it isn't kind, least of all to women.
  • It is up to the government to put this right.

In the news

What are we asking for?

The new government must stand up for sex-based rights and safeguarding. It needs to provide clarity in law and make policies based on the objective reality of sex, not the subjective feeling of “gender identity”.

  1. Ensure clear language, rules and data wherever sex matters.

    When it comes to policy-making on sex and gender issues, the key areas for the new government will be education and health. In these departments, and right across government, the solutions will be sex-based language, clear rules and data collected on the objective reality of sex, not subjective “gender identity”.

  2. Implement the Cass Report and stop transitioning children in schools.

    Sex Matters calls on all parties to commit to implementing the Cass Report. This means an end to children being prescribed puberty blockers or socially transitioned in schools. This should be supported with clear guidance about sex-based rules for schools from the Department for Education. Every education professional should understand that no child can be treated in school as a member of the opposite sex. Sex-based rules are there to protect and support all pupils, and children cannot be kept safe unless there is clarity about the sex of everyone around them.

  3. Drop dangerous plans to criminalise so-called “conversion therapy”.

    Plans to ban so-called “conversion therapy” (in reality, evidence-based talking therapy) should be dropped. Any such law is bound to criminalise loving parents and ethical therapists, and to cause a chilling effect that will make it harder for gender-distressed people to get the support they need.

  4. Make the Equality Act clear.

    Any party that is serious about being in government must commit to making the definition of sex in the Equality Act clear. The current lack of clarity means service providers, from pubs and gyms to rape-crisis centres, are failing to understand the law, opening women-only spaces to men who identify as women and buckling under fear of litigation. The result is that women’s privacy, safety and dignity have been undermined.

  5. Guarantee women’s right to female-only spaces.

    Parties must commit to giving women the right to female-only spaces in both everyday and specialist situations. This includes all public and private-sector facilities that have toilets and changing rooms, as well as hospital accommodation. It also includes specialist women’s sector facilities such as domestic violence shelters, rape crisis centres and prisons, as well as female-only sports.

  6. Say no to legal gender self-ID.

    There should be no move towards gender-self ID, whether openly or by stealth. The current lack of clarity on the meaning of “sex” in the Equality Act means any measure that makes it easier to gain a gender-recognition certificate would be disastrous for the rights of women and girls.

  7. Record sex accurately in healthcare and the criminal justice system.

    The removal of sex-based terms in healthcare and the justice system must end. Sex is always relevant in healthcare, and patients need to know that their records are accurate and that when they are asked about their sex or request a carer of the same sex, everyone is talking about biology, not identity. Sex also matters whenever a crime is committed. Misrecording male offenders as female makes it impossible to study patterns of criminality. When prison and police officers search suspects and prisoners, it’s the sex of both parties that matters, not their gender identity. Imprisoning trans-identifying men in women’s prisons is a breach of female inmates’ human rights.

  8. Fix the sex data muddle with modern data systems.

    It is crucial to fix the muddle that has been made of official data. The next government will inherit systems of recording sex that are a tangled, dangerous mess. It should use the opportunity offered by modern digital data systems to develop a simple, clear protocol for accurately recording everyone’s sex. Everyone’s rights can then be protected by sharing that information when it is needed, and keeping it private when it is not.

  9. Protect women’s sports.

    Fairness, safety and opportunity in sport should be protected for women and girls at all levels by restricting eligibility for the female category to those born female, excluding all males however they identify.

  10. Make regulators do their job and protect everyone’s rights.

    Finally, the next government must press regulators and regulatory agencies to do their jobs and protect everyone’s rights. The Charity Commission must be instructed to ensure that single-sex charities do not undermine their own mission by adopting self-ID. The Office for National Statistics cannot be allowed to make another error on the same scale as in the 2021 census, which featured a widely misunderstood question about gender identity written to please transactivists. The Equality and Human Rights Commission must do more to stand up for single-sex services and against the bullying and harassment of workers who care about sex-based rights.