Gender Reassignment (Equality Bill)

Women and Equality – in the House of Commons at 10:30 am on 14th May 2009.

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Photo of Hugh Bayley Hugh Bayley NATO Parliamentary Assembly UK Delegation 10:30 am, 14th May 2009

Whether the protected characteristic of gender reassignment proposed in the Equality Bill will protect transgendered people who choose not to seek medical advice or to change their physiological attributes.

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Photo of Vera Baird Vera Baird Solicitor General, Attorney General's Office

Yes, the Bill provides an amended definition of gender reassignment which removes the reference to a person's being under medical supervision that exists in the current anti-discrimination law. In the Bill, the protected characteristic of gender reassignment covers transsexual people who take steps to enable them to live permanently in the opposite gender to the one assigned to them at birth. There is no requirement for them to seek medical advice or undergo any surgery or other medical intervention.

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Photo of Hugh Bayley Hugh Bayley NATO Parliamentary Assembly UK Delegation

Some transgendered people seek gender reassignment while others do not, but they all face a potential risk of discrimination at work or elsewhere. The Bill makes clear that protection is given to transsexuals, but do the Government intend all transgendered people, including those who do not seek gender reassignment, to be protected?

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Photo of Vera Baird Vera Baird Solicitor General, Attorney General's Office

Once again, the Tory party has shown how up to date and understanding it is.

One way or another, my hon. Friend Hugh Bayley has made a good point. We will find that most people in that position are protected. As well as the protection I have already described, there is protection by association or by perception, which applies to gender reassignment as well and should cover the people to whom my hon. Friend has referred. I think that the cover is reasonably comprehensive.

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Photo of Lynne Featherstone Lynne Featherstone Shadow Minister (Children, Schools and Families), Liberal Democrat Spokeperson (Children, Schools and Families)

Is the Minister aware that transsexuals face an NHS lottery? There are heavy restrictions in, for instance, Oxfordshire, where they can only get part of what they need done. That is akin to the position in the 1960s, when people were forced to go to Morocco or the Netherlands for surgery. Does the Minister agree that that is an appalling situation for them to find themselves in, and will she commit herself to lobbying the Secretary of State for Health to ensure that people who are diagnosed with gender dysphoria need not face such dreadful circumstances?

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Photo of Vera Baird Vera Baird Solicitor General, Attorney General's Office

As the hon. Lady says, that is really a matter for the Department of Health. However, the Equality Bill places a duty on all public sector bodies to ensure that they end discrimination and promote the well-being of all the protected strands. That will be a useful weapon, and will help to ensure that services are spread more evenly across the country.

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