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2008 National Women's Conference
20 September 2007
Carried as Amended

This Conference notes that the Government is committed to introducing a Single Equality Act in this Parliament. The Government launched the Discrimination Law Review in February 2005 with the task of undertaking a comprehensive review of discrimination legislation, making recommendations that would simplify and modernise the law and ensuring better enforcement and compliance.

Conference supports the need for fair, comprehensive and transparent legislation across all discrimination grounds. In principle, the idea of a Single Equality Act is welcome.

However, the Green Paper does little more than propose minor improvements in some areas and worse, it proposes a reduction in the existing level of protection elsewhere, by weakening the public sector duties.

Further, conference notes the failure of the green paper to propose extending protection for transgender people – a matter strongly called for by UNISON, the TUC and other organisations. Current legislation only protects those who are intending to undergo, undergoing or who have undergone gender reassignment.

Issues of prejudice and discrimination on grounds of gender identity affect every single one of us and have particular significance for us as women. Every baby is assigned a gender at birth and that labelling, along with our race, class and other factors, has a profound affect on our life changes – how we experience society and how society experiences us. This is why we organise as a Women’s Self Organised Group.

Despite progress towards equality, there is still widespread discrimination against women because of their gender identity and/or gender expression. This includes people who identify as transsexual, most of whom transition to live permanently in the opposite gender (though some may not for personal, medical, family or work reasons). But it also includes many others who have no intention of undergoing gender reassignment including:

1)Women who may be mistakenly perceived to be transsexual when they do not identify as such;

2)Women who do not conform to the societal norms or expectations of their gender;

3)People born with physical intersex medical conditions.

The introduction of Gender Equality Duty presented a real opportunity for progress in equality between women and men and for transgender people, but the first anniversary of the introduction of the duty is imminent and conference believes that few employers have taken on board the spirit of that duty, let alone the word.

UNISON lobbied successfully for the inclusion of the requirement to consult trade unions in the Code of Practice which accompanies the Gender Equality duty, but the Green Paper does not reflect the important role of trade unions as stakeholders, social partners and in challenging discrimination and promoting equality.

Conference, therefore, calls on the National Women’s Committee to work with the other National Self Organised Groups, the NEC and Labour Link to campaign for a strong public sector single equality duty, and an overhaul of equality laws to strengthen and simplify them and create coherence across all equality strands.