'How much longer do we have to wait?’ Ministers condemned over delays in reforms to transgender rights

'There’s something rotten at the heart of our government,' says Dawn Butler

London's first trans pride in September 2019
London's first trans pride in September 2019

Government delays in publishing a long-awaited consultation into reforming transgender rights have allowed “hate to fester”, according to the shadow women and equalities minister.

Speaking in the Commons, Victoria Atkins, the women and equalities minister, was unable to confirm when the government would publish the results of the consultation on reforms to the Gender Recognition Act.

She said Boris Johnson’s administration was looking “carefully and methodically” at the findings of the survey adding: “We are clear that we want to protect trans adults’ rights and protect single-sex spaces for women. We do want to rush this; we want to get it right.”

However, addressing the issue in November 2018 – just after the consultation closed for responses – Ms Atkins said at the time the government would publish the survey in the spring of 2019.

Speaking to The Independent, the shadow equalities minister, Dawn Butler, said the delay was “unacceptable”, adding: “How much longer do we have to wait?

“They weaponised the Gender Recognition Act throughout the election campaign. And now in 2020 we still don’t know what we’re doing.”

She continued: “I think there’s something rotten at the heart of our government. The increase in hate crimes among the LGBT and trans community happened after the delay, after delay of the Gender Recognition Act.

“They just need to get GRA done. They need to publish the consultation where we had 100,000 responses – the largest any government has had.”

“I think the government is letting down the whole of the LGBTQI+ community. The government is also letting everyone down by allowing hate to fester.”

In July 2018, former women and equalities minister Penny Mordaunt launched a public consultation into how transgender people change their legal gender on their birth certificates.

Under the existing Gender Recognition Act, a trans person has to undergo a two-year waiting period, a review or appearance before a specialist panel as well as paying £140 before being able to change their gender legally.

Ms Mordaunt, the former cabinet minister responsible for the equalities brief, told The Independent said there was a “huge consensus about what should happen”.

Former minister Penny Mordaunt

She added: “There is a paucity of care for people needing support and services and consequently massive delay in getting access – hence the two year wait. There are some outdated barriers facing people wanting to change their gender – such as having to get your spouse’s consent, and government should have a ‘tell us once’ service so we end the nonsense of people having different documents in different genders.

“The law on women only spaces also needs clarity. Some of this will take time – you can’t grow healthcare and support capacity overnight, but I think all sides of the debate will be reassured when the consultation results are published.”

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