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Overview

After several years of work and the input of many interested individuals, groups and organisations, the UK passed the Equality Act  2010.  As at the end of 2012, this legislation has been fully implemented throughout the UK.

With this legislation the UK Government aims to simplify, modernise and increase the effectiveness of equality legislation.

Under the Equality Act gender reassignment is a protected characteristic, which means those who posses the characteristic are protected from discrimination by the legislation.

The Act covers people who are proposing to undergo, currently undergoing or have undergone a process (or part of a process) of gender reassignment. The act makes it clear that it is not necessary for people to have any medical diagnosis or treatment to gain this protection; it is a personal process of moving away from one’s birth gender to one’s self-identified gender. A person remains protected, even if they decide not to proceed further with transitioning.

In regards to transgender equality the Act provides the following:

  • ‘Gender reassignment’ is named as an explicit protected characteristic, alongside age, disability, marriage and civil partnership, pregnancy and maternity, race, religion or belief, sex and sexual orientation.
  • The requirement for medical supervision to take place as part of a process of ‘gender reassignment’ has been removed so someone who simply changes the gender role in which they live without ever going to see a doctor is protected.
  • All the main protections which already existed for gender reassignment are carried over from the previous Sex Discrimination Act legislation – e.g. protection from gender reassignment discrimination in employment and goods and services. The previously existing exceptions are also carried over.
  • The Equality Act offers new protection from discrimination due to association with transgender people or perception as a transgender person.
  • It also offers new protection from indirect discrimination because of gender reassignment.
  • The public sector equality duty is extended to more fully include gender reassignment as one of the specific protected characteristics for which public bodies must take due regard of: the need to eliminate discrimination, harassment and victimisation; the need to promote equality; and the need to promote good relations.
  • Protection is provided for gender reassignment discrimination in education.

We continue to call for the protected characteristic to be widened in the future to ‘gender identity’ rather than ‘gender reassignment’ in order to be more clearly inclusive of those transgender people who do not identify as transsexual and do not intend to change the gender in which they live. It is also currently unclear whether intersex people are protected under the act and so it should be amended to explicitly provide them with protection from discrimination. We also continue to call for various anomalies regarding the gender reassignment discrimination and harassment protections in the Equality Act 2010 to be resolved (such as how insurance premiums are calculated for transsexual people, the lack of harassment protection for trans people in school education, and in terms of occupational requirements and single sex service provision).

It must also be noted that the Equality Act 2010 does not resolve some of the ongoing problems with the Gender Recognition Act 2004, such as the requirement to submit detailed psychiatric diagnosis reports in order to access the basic human right to have your gender identity recognised.  We are pleased to report that the Marriage and Civil Partnerships (Scotland) Act 2014 addressed the issue of transgender marriages and civil partnerships.  Further information on this can be found on our completed work pages.