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Public Sector Equality Duty (Sex)

– in the Scottish Parliament on 10th January 2019.

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Photo of Joan McAlpine Joan McAlpine Scottish National Party

6. To ask the Scottish Government what work it is doing to ensure that all public bodies are fulfilling their public sector equality duty with regard specifically to the protected characteristic of “sex” as represented in the Equality Act 2010. (S5O-02754)

Photo of Shirley-Anne Somerville Shirley-Anne Somerville Scottish National Party

The Equality Act 2010 is largely reserved. However, a framework to help public authorities to meet the requirements of the public sector equality duty has been set by the Scottish ministers through regulations. The Scottish Government expects all relevant organisations to comply with the requirements of the 2010 act in relation to all protected characteristics. Responsibility for oversight of compliance with the 2010 act, including compliance with the Equality Act 2010 (Specific Duties) (Scotland) Regulations 2012, rests with the Equality and Human Rights Commission. The commission is independent and cannot be directed by the Scottish ministers. Private individuals may also seek to enforce their rights under the Equality Act 2010 in courts and tribunals.

Photo of Joan McAlpine Joan McAlpine Scottish National Party

Is the cabinet secretary aware of recent research by the academic consultancy, Murray Blackburn Mackenzie, that found that only seven out of the 32 local authorities in Scotland had a clear definition of sex as a protected characteristic, while others conflated sex with gender identity, which has no definition in law, or gender reassignment, which is a completely separate protected characteristic? Many Scottish Government documents also conflate those things. That undermines the Equality Act 2010 exemptions that are designed to protect women and girls. Does the cabinet secretary agree that to support women and girls we need clear data on sex, and would she consider issuing guidelines to ensure that every public authority in Scotland adheres to that aspect of the Equality Act 2010?

Photo of Shirley-Anne Somerville Shirley-Anne Somerville Scottish National Party

The protected characteristic of sex in the Equality Act 2010 relates to being a man or a woman. We accept that sex and gender are distinct concepts. The Scottish Government agrees that there is a need to have disaggregated data to allow for the impacts of policies on men and women to be demonstrated. In Scotland there is both technical guidance and non-statutory guidance on the public sector equality duty for public bodies, which is published by the

Equality and Human Rights Commission. The Scottish Government expects all relevant organisations to comply with the requirements of the 2010 act and with the published guidance.