Where sex matters | Single-sex services

Single-sex services

Single-sex services are critical for inclusion. Vulnerable women in particular rely on specialist women’s services such as refuges and rape-crisis centres. Everyday services such as changing rooms and hospital wards provide dignity and privacy for all.

The UK Equality Act 2010 sets out many everyday situations where it is lawful to provide single-sex services. These include:

Circumstances where a person of one sex might reasonably object to the presence of a person of the opposite sex

Equality Act – Schedule 3, paragraph 27 (6)

Shared single-sex spaces are often the most practical way to provide lots of people with everyday privacy and dignity in places such as gyms, hospitals, dormitories and changing rooms and washrooms in schools, workplaces and other public places. Specialist single-sex services such as women’s refuges and rape-crisis centres are crucial services.

What is the problem?

Rules and expectations about single-sex services have become confused and organisations are afraid to communicate them clearly. Some people think they are based on “gender identity”. Some think they are based on “gender expression” (clothing and appearance). Some think there are no rules at all.

This is not fair on anyone. Being forced to undress, wash, share sleeping accommodation or have personal care with a person of the opposite sex without your consent is degrading. Single-sex services should be clear.


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    29th May 2022

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    27th May 2022

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    3rd May 2022

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    27th April 2022

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    Schools are calling out for clear guidance on sex and gender to answer questions such as what should they do when they face demands to socially transition children or to keep the secrets of a child who identifies as trans.

    25th April 2022

  • Sex matters in changing rooms

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    20th April 2022

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    19th April 2022

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    Dear Fawcett Society Your response to the EHRC guide for separate and single-sex service providers is dismaying.  You say  “there are occasions where services, in particular those for trauma survivors, should be able to make the decision” .  Which services do...

    6th April 2022

  • Equality and Human Rights Commission releases new guidance

    Statement on EHRC guidance

    Sex Matters welcomes new guidance on single-sex services and calls on EHRC to revise the statutory codes of practice.

    4th April 2022

  • Launch of #RespectMySex campaign

    Together with Heather Binning of the Women’s Rights Network and Caroline ffiske of Women Uniting, on Saturday 2nd April Maya Forstater, the executive director of Sex Matters, launched the “Respect My Sex if You Want My X” campaign.

    3rd April 2022

  • What happens when we talk about single-sex services and the law

    On 24th March, Sex Matters Director Rebecca Bull presented at the A Woman’s Place is in Manchester event, on single-sex services and the law, in a session chaired by Sex Matters Director Dr Emma Hilton. She spoke alongside Cathy Devine, Judith Green and Maggy Moyo. Here is Rebecca’s presentation,...

    28th March 2022

  • Dear Borish and Liz: Support the EHRC on single-sex services

    Human-rights campaigners call for new statutory guidance on single-sex services

    Over the past week the Women’s Aid Federation  and the Women’s Resource Centre have released strong statements defending single-sex services.  They follow the example of nia, which was the first women’s refuge provider to openly and proudly defend single-sex services. Sex Matters supports and applauds the leadership taken by the...

    24th March 2022

  • Karen Ingala Smith, photographed by Sophia Evans for the Observer

    Karen Ingala Smith talks about single-sex services

    “I have heard leaders of charities that are supposed to support women who’ve been subjected to men’s violence say that it is ‘not safe’ for them to speak about this. That makes me so angry. How can they talk about their safety and accept those salaries when we are...

    23rd February 2022

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    We think crime victims deserve respect, dignity, sensitivity, compassion and courtesy, as specified in the Victims’ Code.

    10th February 2022

  • “We are gravely concerned by the attacks on the Equality and Human Rights Commission and call for you to support it.”

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    9th February 2022

  • Single-sex guidance covers

    What does case law say about single-sex services?

    The Equality and Human Rights Commission is planning to release new guidance on single-sex services imminently. Kishwer Falkner, Chair of the EHRC, agreed when Joanna Cherry QC MP asked her: “Would you agree with me that all guidance issued by EHRC should be grounded in statute and case law,...

    3rd February 2022

  • Principles for clarity and respect

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    28th January 2022

  • ‘The consultation document contains no clear definition of what will amount to “conversion therapy” caught by its proposals, nor of the meaning of “transgender”...’

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    Sex Matters welcomes its statements on Gender Recognition Act reform and conversion therapy.

    26th January 2022

  • Clear rules and girls’ schools

    Why the Girls' Day School Trust's single-sex policy is lawful and important.

    11th January 2022

  • Single-sex services publications

    Simple guidance for single-sex services

    The Women and Equalities Committee has issued a new report that calls for guidance on the interaction between sex and “gender reassignment” in relation to single sex services. In other words, it wants clarification on whether it is legal to provide a service that is just for women and...

    20th December 2021

  • No need for sex data on domestic abuse?

    Yesterday the Domestic Abuse Commissioner launched a survey for survivors of domestic abuse about their experience of using domestic abuse services across England and Wales: “We are running this survey so that we can understand what is good about domestic abuse services in different areas of the country, and...

    7th December 2021

  • EHRC to issue guidance on single-sex and separate-sex services

    Baroness Falkner, Chairwoman of the Equality and Human Rights Commission has told ministers that the body is acting on a request by MPs to issue hospitals, schools, prisons and private firms with “worked examples and guidance” that will “provide clarity … on the provision of single-sex services.” It is...

    18th October 2021

  • The EHRC must step up and provide clarity on single-sex services

    The Equality and Human Rights Commission is consulting on its strategic plan for 2022–2025. We have made a submission in the form of a letter to the incoming head of the EHRC, Marcial Boo. Sex is one of the nine protected characteristics for which the EHRC is responsible. Fostering...

    5th October 2021

  • Truth and reconciliation

    How should the public sector leave the Stonewall Champions Scheme?

    6th June 2021

  • Time to #LeaveStonewall

    This is the letter we have sent to the CEOs of the 850 organisations that are members of the Stonewall Diversity Champions Scheme. Re: Leaving the Stonewall Diversity Champions Scheme We are writing to call on you to withdraw from the scheme, both for the sake of your own...

    29th May 2021

  • Are single-sex services legal?

    Does the judgment in AEA v EHRC (where permission for a judicial review of the EHRC Statutory Code of Practice was refused) mean that the legality of single-sex services has changed? The answer is no.  The Equality Act still allows single-sex services in a range of common everyday and specialist...

    19th May 2021

  • Sex Matters influences toilets policy

    As reported in The Telegraph today the Government in England is going to amend building regulations and planning guidance to ensure separate sex toilet facilities are installed in new buildings or those being developed. This is good news. Sex Matters was amongst the many gender critical organisations and individuals...

    16th May 2021

  • Is Gender Recognition an “access all areas” pass?

    The Gender Recognition Act 2004 was passed with little public scrutiny or consideration for women’s rights. A critical question concerns the provision in Section 9 that a gender recognition certificate changes a person’s sex for all purposes. Is this an “access all areas“ pass?  When the Act was passing...

    14th April 2021

  • Watching the watchdogs

    The job of the Women and Equalities Select Committee (WESC) is to hold Government to account on equality law and policy, particularly the Equality Act 2010. It also scrutinises the equalities watchdog, the Equality and Human Rights Commission. The Committee has received over 2,000 submissions in its current inquiry...

    6th April 2021

  • Stonewalling the Domestic Violence Bill: Why make “misogyny” gender neutral?

    A short month ago there was an attempt to rush a bill through parliament that would set a precedent of “gender neutralising” motherhood in law; replacing the words mother or woman with  “pregnant person” in the Ministerial and other Maternity Allowances (MOMA) Bill.   As Baroness Noakes highlighted, this is...

    13th March 2021

  • Toilets – a place where sex matters

    The Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government is undertaking a technical review on increasing accessibility and provision of toilets for men and women. We submitted a 60 page briefing . The submission is long, because the issue of who can use which toilets has become overly complicated and...

    19th February 2021

  • GRA Reform: Evidence to the Women and Equality Select Committee

    We submitted evidence to the Women and Equality Select Committee's Inquiry into Reform of the Gender Recognition Act.

    4th January 2021

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