Equality Act 2010: Protected Characteristics

Women and Equalities – in the House of Commons at on 26 April 2023.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Angela Richardson Angela Richardson Conservative, Guildford

What assessment she has made of the adequacy of the definitions of protected characteristics in the Equality Act 2010.

Photo of Stuart Andrew Stuart Andrew Assistant Whip, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State (Department for Culture, Media and Sport), Parliamentary Under Secretary of State (Department for Business and Trade) (Minister for Equalities)

The Equality Act 2010 covers a number of protected characteristics, including age, disability, gender reassignment, marriage and civil partnerships, race, religion and belief, sex and sexual orientation. My right hon. Friend the Minister for Women and Equalities has written to the Equality and Human Rights Commission to understand whether the Act is sufficiently clear in the balance that it strikes between the interests of people with those different characteristics.

Photo of Angela Richardson Angela Richardson Conservative, Guildford

What assessment has the Minister made of the importance of protecting single-sex spaces?

Photo of Stuart Andrew Stuart Andrew Assistant Whip, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State (Department for Culture, Media and Sport), Parliamentary Under Secretary of State (Department for Business and Trade) (Minister for Equalities)

We are committed to maintaining the safeguard that allows organisations to provide single-sex spaces. It is important to uphold the principle of being able to operate spaces reserved for women and girls. The Government are committed to tackling harassment and abusive behaviour by all individuals and to ensuring that single-sex spaces are safe. The EHRC has published guidance on the legislation. That clarity is there to help those who provide those spaces; it does not change the legal position or the law.

Photo of Christine Jardine Christine Jardine Liberal Democrat Spokesperson (Scotland), Liberal Democrat Spokesperson (Women and Equalities), Liberal Democrat Spokesperson (Cabinet Office)

Just this week, the Government stated that they agree with the recommendation in the Law Commission review of hate crime laws that sex or gender should not be added as a protected characteristic. Can the Minister explain the implications for moves towards making misogyny a hate crime of violence towards women and girls? Can he assure us that there is no intention to address the protected characteristics in the Equality Act?

Photo of Stuart Andrew Stuart Andrew Assistant Whip, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State (Department for Culture, Media and Sport), Parliamentary Under Secretary of State (Department for Business and Trade) (Minister for Equalities)

Over the past few years, there have been at least 15 calls for various extra characteristics to be added. There has not been sufficient evidence for doing so, but we will always keep the characteristics under review. Let me make it very clear that this Government will absolutely do everything we can to tackle any issues around violence towards women and girls. We have been and will continue to be strong in our actions against those who seek to create harm.