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Rishi Sunak urged to back up his ‘cheap words’ with new laws to give clarity over the legal definition of the word ‘woman’ following Scottish court ruling

Rishi Sunak is facing demands to back up his ‘cheap words’ with new laws to give clarity over the legal definition of the word ‘woman’.

Campaigners have written to both the Prime Minister and Kemi Badenoch, the women and equalities minister, in the wake of a recent ruling by Scottish judges.

The Court of Session in Edinburgh last week rejected an appeal by the For Women Scotland (FWS) group over the definition of the word ‘women’ when relating to gender balance on public boards.

The group had argued it was legally incompetent for the Gender Representation of Public Boards (Scotland) Act 2018 to use ‘woman’ to represent both women and trans women, or those who ‘live as women’.

They said the use of the term was an attempt to override the Equality Act 2010.

But the Court of Session threw out the challenge and ruled that trans women with a Gender Recognition Certificate (GRC) do come under the definition of ‘woman’ in the Act, which aims to ensure females make up half of non-executive board membership.

FWS and a string of other campaign groups, including Sex Matters, have now used their letter to the PM and Ms Badenoch to pressure the UK Government to bring forward new legislation to clarify the legal definition of the term ‘woman’.

Rishi Sunak is facing demands to back up his 'cheap words' with new laws to give clarity over the legal definition of the word 'woman' Rishi Sunak is facing demands to back up his 'cheap words' with new laws to give clarity over the legal definition of the word 'woman'

Rishi Sunak is facing demands to back up his ‘cheap words’ with new laws to give clarity over the legal definition of the word ‘woman’

Campaigners have written to both the Prime Minister and Kemi Badenoch , the women and equalities minister, in the wake of a recent ruling by Scottish judges Campaigners have written to both the Prime Minister and Kemi Badenoch , the women and equalities minister, in the wake of a recent ruling by Scottish judges

Campaigners have written to both the Prime Minister and Kemi Badenoch , the women and equalities minister, in the wake of a recent ruling by Scottish judges

Earlier this year, Ms Badenoch wrote to Britain's equalities watchdog about updating legislation to make clear that 'sex' refers to 'biological sex' Earlier this year, Ms Badenoch wrote to Britain's equalities watchdog about updating legislation to make clear that 'sex' refers to 'biological sex'

Earlier this year, Ms Badenoch wrote to Britain’s equalities watchdog about updating legislation to make clear that ‘sex’ refers to ‘biological sex’

They called on Mr Sunak and Ms Badenoch to commit to publishing a proposal for secondary legislation to ‘clarify the relationship between the Equality Act and the Gender Recognition Act’.

They also urged the UK Government support the development of a post-legislative scrutiny committee in Parliament to ‘consider how the Gender Recognition Act is working in practice, whether it is consistent with women’s rights and whether it needs to be reformed, and how it relates to reserved and devolved powers’.

In addition, the campaigners demanded a public inquiry ‘on the erosion of protection for single-sex services, spaces and data, and the impact of this on safeguarding’.

During his Tory conference speech last month, Mr Sunak declared: ‘A man is a man and a woman is a woman. That’s just common sense.’

But the campaigners’ letter added: ‘These are cheap words when those politicians do not step up and protect women’s rights, and the clarity of language, rules and laws that are needed to defend those rights.’

Earlier this year, Ms Badenoch wrote to Britain’s equalities watchdog about updating legislation to make clear that ‘sex’ refers to ‘biological sex’.

She asked for the Equality and Human Rights Commission’s ‘considered advice of the benefits or otherwise’ of re-writing the 2010 Equality Act.

In their reply, the EHRC said such a move could ‘bring clarity in a number of areas’ and ‘merits further consideration’.

This included in the employment of staff in safe spaces such as women’s or girls’ hostels, the use of women’s-only wards in hospitals, and the exclusion of trans women from women’s sports, the watchdog said.

Asked about the campaigners’ letter in the wake of last week’s Court of Session ruling, Mr Sunak’s official spokesman said: ‘I’m not aware if we’ve received any correspondence on that specific case.

‘The PM has made his views on this very clear on a number of occasions.’

The debate surrounding trans rights in Scotland has been tense over the last few months, following the passing of the Gender Recognition (Scotland) Act by the Scottish Parliament.

The legislation aims to make it easier for trans people to obtain a GRC, which is legal recognition of their acquired gender, by introducing a system of self-declaration for obtaining a GRC and removing the need for a medical diagnosis of gender dysphoria.

But Mr Sunak dramatically blocked the Gender Recognition (Scotland) Act from formally passing into law amid warnings it would cause UK-wide legislative chaos.

Scottish Greens MSP Maggie Chapman hailed last week’s Court of Session ruling as ‘welcome’ and an ‘important day for trans rights’.

She said: ‘Trans women are women, and have been subjected to some of the most appalling bigotry and prejudice as part of a culture war that has been knowingly and purposefully stoked by some politicians and media.

‘With anti-trans hate crimes soaring and the UK Government actively rolling back rights and using an anti-democratic veto against the gender reform that our Parliament overwhelmingly voted for, a lot of trans people are feeling attacked like never before.’

Rishi SunakUK GovernmentEdinburgh

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