Sunday, January 13, 2008

UK Fails to Implement EU Discrimination Law by December 21st Deadline

I have been dismayed today to receive a newsletter from The Gender Trust explaining that the long awaited amendment to the Sex Discrimination Act 1975 to outlaw discrimination against Trans people in the provision of goods and services, which was due to have come into force on December 21st, has been postponed.

Gender Trust Newsletter

It is difficult to understand why this government shows such disdain for gender and transgender issues. Of course there is always a strong religious, and especially Christian, lobby against all transgender rights, and the recent news that Tony Blair has converted to Catholicism does perhaps give us a clue as to why a government that talks equal rights and diversity has only acted on gender and sexuality issues when compelled to do so by the EC or European Court.

The Sex Discrimination Act amendment is in response to the EC Goods & Services Directive 2004/113 intended to create equality throughout the EC. The draft regulations were presented to parliament on 28th November following consultation during the Summer and should have come into force on 21st December. The regulations include a number of changes, the most significant of which are to make it unlawful to discriminate against people in the provision of goods and services on grounds of gender reassignment, maternity or pregnancy. They also change the burden of proof in favour of the person discriminated against.

I really find if difficult to understand why when the EC directive was issues in 2004 it has taken until now to implement in the first place. There was an attempt to deal with this in an amendment to the Equality Act 2006 which did result in goods and services legislation for lesbian and gay people in April 2007 once again delayed, and it seems that the reason for this latest delay is again because the government is attempting to allow exemptions for religious organisations.

Later this year the new Single Equality Act will be debated which will be an attempt remove anomalies in the various strands discrimination law and create fairer and more equal treatment for all discrimination. Yet once again powerful lobby groups on doctrinal grounds will argue for the right to discriminate on the basis modern of interpretations of a few questionable paragraphs in the old testament of the bible.

Surely it is time these religions accepted that discrimination, especially where it is on the grounds of a physical characteristic over which we have no control, is unacceptable. Right now Britain is in breach of EU law and it is very likely that if this legislation is not put in place soon, they will find themselves facing high court litigation over their failure to comply with their EU obligations.

Update - 16th January 2008

I have now learned that one of the problems with these regulations, apart from objections from religious pressure groups, has been that they failed to fully reflect the requirements of the EU directive. In fact had the regulations as drafted gone into force they would have diluted previously agreed rights. As a result the government had decided to redraft the regulations and they will be presented to parliament shortly. Whilst this does mean that the UK is now in breach of the EU directive, any trans person experiencing discrimination in respect of goods and services is able to take legal action and courts are bound to interpret the law as if the EU directive had been implemented.


Bipin Adhikari said...

Your article does not adequately explain why the long awaited amendment to the Sex iscrimination Act 1975 could not be passed by December 21?

Rikki said...

Hi Bipin

You are absolutely right - and I am still trying to find out why this has been delayed. the only comment I have been able to find so far is on the Gender Trust newsletter saying:

"due to the government seeking further evidence on issues effecting transgender individuals"

As soon as I know more on this I will post an update. Until last Friday I has been under the impression that the law had been passed, despite the fact that very little indeed has been written about this topic.


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Lee Miller said...

A piece of useful legal information particularly relevant to those people who work for any type of government organisation such as nurses, firemen or even local government such as county and borough councils!!

You can use the ''emanation of state'' to try the UK Government over implementation of a EU directive which in relation to this must be immediate!!