Fri 14 Apr 2023 — 2 min

The EHRC (Equality and Human Rights Commission) has caused considerable controversy in the last week after issuing recommendations to the Minister for Women and Equalities, Kemi Badenoch, suggesting that the government should "clarify" the Equality Act by replacing legal sex with “biological sex”. The EHRC admits in its recommendations that this is likely to have a detrimental effect on trans people.

Correspondence shared with Trans Safety Network shows the EHRC admitting quite frankly that they have no definition of biological sex and no expertise in-house in terms of how to define it.

The last message in the email chain seen by TSN, from the EHRC and dated April 11th, they had initially offered that they would “consult with our subject matter experts and will come back to you”. When pressed further on the definition they are proposing, EHRC followed this up, stating they “do not have experts in Biology, only in Equality and Human rights law.”

This lacklustre response follows reports by Trans Actual of similar comments made at a meeting of the EHRC with trans organisation representatives on April 5th.

During that meeting, Melanie Field, the EHRC’s executive director for strategy, policy, legal and Wales, suggested to Trans Actual’s Helen Belcher that “sex recorded at birth is a proxy for biological sex”. This indicates that “biology” has little to do with the definition of sex being proposed by the EHRC, with the change instead representing a reversion to the definition of legal sex predating the Gender Recognition Act 2004 — simply what is recorded on an individual's birth certificate, at the time of birth. The Gender Recognition Act currently allows the amendment of such Birth Certificates upon obtaining a Gender Recognition Certificate, at which point a trans individual becomes the acquired sex for all legal purposes.

Trans Safety Network contacted the EHRC for comment but received no reply.