Where do the UK's political parties stand on the gender debate?

As the Tories propose a clarification of the law to draw a clear distinction between sex and gender, here's where the main UK parties stand on trans rights.

File photo dated Business Secretary Kemi Badenoch who has told firms to focus on delivering for customers rather than
Women and equalities minister Kemi Badenoch has said organisations 'are confused about what the law says on sex and gender and when to act'. (Alamy)

The Conservative have announced plans to amend the Equality Act to clearly define sex as meaning "biological sex" rather than gender.

On Sunday, Rishi Sunak said in an election announcement that “making this change in law” would enhance protections and address “current confusion around definitions of sex and gender”.

However, during Monday morning's media rounds, women and equalities minister Kemi Badenoch put it slightly differently, telling Sky News this would be a "clarification in the law" rather than a "change", adding: "It is re-emphasising what should be the status quo."

Here, Yahoo News explains where the UK's major political parties stand on the gender debate.

The Tories have proposed setting out clearer distinctions between sex and gender, arguing that the Equality Act 2010 has “not kept pace with evolving interpretations".

The party said it will change the Equality Act to make clear that the protected characteristic of sex is “biological sex”, rather than gender.

Writing in The Times, Badenoch said: “The law is confused because times have changed and words in law are being re-interpreted to meanings quite different from what legislators intended.

“Clarification is required. Not just to protect the privacy and dignity of women and girls, but also to protect those people with gender dysphoria for whom the law was set up to protect. These trans people were going about their lives in peace until predators started exploiting loopholes in the law by calling themselves trans with no evidence beyond their self-identification.”

Suggesting that the Tories would be willing to ban trans people from certain spaces in a bid to safeguard biological women, Badenoch said: "Whether it is rapists being housed in women's prisons, or instances of men playing in women's sports where they have an unfair advantage, it is clear that public authorities and regulatory bodies are confused about what the law says on sex and gender and when to act – often for fear of being accused of transphobia, or not being inclusive."

London, UK. 14th May, 2024. Anneliese Dodds, Shadow Secretary of State for Women and Equalities, and Chair of the Labour Party. Sir Starmer has so far not yet exited the building. Labour Party leader Sir Keir Starmer, alongside members of his shadow cabinet, are meeting with UK trade union leaders today to discuss their rewritten package of employment reform and workers rights. Credit: Imageplotter/Alamy Live News
Anneliese Dodds, shadow secretary of state for women and equalities. (Alamy)

The Labour Party has said it wants to "simplify" the process of legally changing gender by allowing a single family doctor to sign off the decision.

While the new system would still involve doctors, the party has said it wants to make the process less "medicalised" – although people still would need a diagnosis of gender dysphoria.

For example, a panel of doctors who currently approve gender recognition certificates would be removed under Labour to stop the “futile and dehumanising parts” of changing gender, the Times reported.

Writing for the Guardian in July last year, shadow women and equalities secretary Anneliese Dodds said: “Changing gender is not a decision anyone makes lightly. The process is intrusive, outdated and humiliating. So we will modernise, simplify and reform the gender recognition law to a new process. We will remove invasive bureaucracy and simplify the process.”

However, Labour has also promised certain "safeguards" to be in place, with Dodds saying there "will always be places where it is reasonable for biological women only to have access". She added: "Labour will defend those spaces, providing legal clarity for the providers of single-sex services.”

On their website, the Liberal Democrats have vowed to "respect and defend the rights and identities of all LGBT+ people, including trans and non-binary people".

It is not yet clear if the party will be carrying this policy into the 4 July election, but in their 2019 manifesto, they proposed a "complete reform of the Gender Recognition Act to remove the requirement for medical reports, scrap the fee and recognise non-binary gender identities.

The party also called for the introduction of an "X" gender option on passports, an extended equality law to cover gender identity and expression and for schools to be required to introduce gender-neutral uniform policies and to "break down outdated perceptions of gender appropriateness of certain subjects".

On a section of the Lib Dems website titled "Trans Rights 101", the party calls on readers to "challenge transphobia" when they see it – "whether it be blatant abuse of a trans person, or more insidious acts, like only respecting a person's pronouns when they are present".

The party also encourages people to "normalise giving pronouns" (i.e. "My name is Egbert and my pronouns are he and him").

The SNP says it remains "firmly committed to improving the lives of trans and non-binary people", including "action to tackle prejudice and hate crime" and more "inclusive education".

It has also pledged to "improve and simplify the process by which a trans person can obtain legal recognition, so that the trauma associated with that process is reduced".

"We remain committed to making necessary changes to the Gender Recognition Act that arise from this work at the earliest opportunity," the party says on its website.

The SNP's MPs in Westminster have previously vowed to pressure the UK government to match the Scottish government’s commitment to legislation on this issue. In particular, MPs have said in the past that they will push to allow non-binary people to record their gender as “X” on passports and other identity documents.

They are also calling for amendments to the Equality Act 2010 to ensure that all trans and non-binary people are covered by discrimination protections and will also press for intersex people and organisations to be fully consulted by the UK government on changes to the law.

According to policy documents, the Green Party says that it "recognises that there are many gender identities that are within, and outside of, the traditional gender binary of man and woman".

"The Green Party recognises that trans men are men, trans women are women, and that non-binary identities exist and are valid, all as statements of gender identity," it adds.

"We shall respect transgender and non-binary people’s identities as valid. The Green Party shall include, and push for further acceptance of, transgender and non-binary people within all areas of society."

However, not everyone within the party has been united on this issue. Emma Bateman, former co-chair of the Green Party Women group, says she has been "expelled three times from the Green Party for saying men are not women". She is currently awaiting the outcome of her fourth appeal.

In its 'Contract with the people' on its website, Reform UK has said it would ban transgender ideology in primary and secondary schools.

In what it describes as a "critical reform", Reform, said it would make the move within the first 100 days of being in office. Its website states: "There are 2 sexes and 2 genders. It is a dangerous safeguarding issue to confuse children by suggesting otherwise. No gender questioning, social transitioning or pronoun swapping. Inform parents of under 16s about their children’s life decisions. Schools must have single sex facilities."

It also says it will Review the Online Safety Bill so that "social media giants that push baseless transgender ideology and divisive Critical Race theory should have no role in regulating free speech."