Badenoch blames SNP and early election for not changing Equality Act sooner

The Conservative Party has pledged to amend the Equality Act to stop people “misinterpreting” current rules around gender and biological sex.

The party said that reforming the law, which states that an individual must not be discriminated against on the basis of their sex, would clear up “confusion” among public bodies and institutions.

Under the proposals, the Conservatives will also establish in law that gender recognition is a reserved matter, claiming that “this will mean that an individual can only have one sex in the eyes of the law in the United Kingdom”.

However, the party said the proposed change would not scrap existing protections against discrimination on the basis of gender reassignment. The sex of those with a Gender Recognition Certificate will still align with their gender in law outside the Equality Act.

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Kemi Badenoch, who serves as women and equalities minister, said the pledge to change the law to protect women’s spaces such as toilets and changing rooms would stop people from “misinterpreting” current rules. 

She pledged a “clarification in the law” to ensure “biological sex” is a protected characteristic.

Speaking to Sky News on Monday morning, Badenoch was asked why the government did not move to change the Equality Act before the prime minister called the election last month. 

The women and equalities minister said the “biggest reason” was the SNP’s gender recognition reform legislation which “took up quite a lot of bandwidth”, as well as other legal cases.

The Gender Recognition Reform (Scotland) Bill was passed by the Scottish Parliament in December 2022 but the UK government blocked it from becoming law over fears it would impact on equality laws across Britain.

UK ministers used section 35 of the Scotland Act to veto the legislation. Subsequently, the Court of Session in Edinburgh rejected a Scottish government legal challenge to the veto.

Badenoch added that she had been working on changes to the Equality Act, but “unfortunately the election was called before we would have been able to lay the legislation in September”.

Commenting on the proposals, she said: “What we are doing is making sure that people understand what the law says. We have seen a lot of problems with people misinterpreting the law.”

Badenoch said the Conservatives are not “giving instructions to different sporting bodies” but “making it very clear what the law is”.

She went on to say that sport is an area where there are “sex categories for a specific reason”, but insisted that “transgender athletes are not stopped from competing”.

“They may, in some cases, have to compete with their biological sex. They may in some cases have open categories.

“But what we are trying to stop is the scenario where we see very obvious unfair advantages.”

Asked which toilets the government intends for transgender people to use, Badenoch said: “We have not said that transgender people can’t use specific toilets. What we have said is that they must provide toilets for single sexes as well.

“And if you provide for all, that is genuine inclusion. The sort of inclusion that people are doing are actually exclusive to women.” is the UK’s leading digital-only political website. Subscribe to our daily newsletter for all the latest election news and analysis.