Britain’s High Court on Tuesday ordered the government to change its guidance to people filling out the 2021 census to compel transgender people to give their legally recognised sex, following a challenge from women’s rights activists.
The court ordered the government’s Office for National Statistics (ONS) to rewrite its guidelines on how people should describe their sex, after the campaign group Fair Play For Women complained it allowed people to define their sex themselves.
“(The) guidance is wrong. It does not match the question being asked,” said judge Jonathan Swift, ahead of the March 21 census, which is carried out every 10 years.
“(Fair Play For Women has) a strongly arguable case on the proper meaning of sex … as recognised by law and not the sex with which the person self-identifies.”
The decision comes amid an increasingly bitter row over trans rights in Britain, where the government last year abandoned plans to make it easier for trans people to change their sex on official documents after a heated debate.
The original ONS guidance said:
“For those whose gender is different from their sex registered at birth, who may find the question difficult to answer, the answer they provide does not need to be the same as their birth certificate.”
Fair Play For Women, which says it campaigns for women’s sex-based rights, said on its website that the ONS had redefined sex “to include self-declared gender identity”, which prevented the collection of accurate data on inequalities due to sex.
The judge granted Fair Play For Women’s request to seek a full judicial review of the matter, provisionally next week.
In the interim, the ruling said census respondents must give the sex on their birth or gender recognition certificate – a document that allows trans people to gain legal recognition of their new gender and name.
To receive a gender recognition certificate, trans people must live in their acquired gender for two years and have a medical diagnosis of gender dysphoria – the discomfort people can feel if their gender identity does not match their body.
-Hugo Greenhalgh @hugo_greenhalgh – Thomson Reuters Foundation