Does the Gender Reassignment protected characteristic under the Equality Act 2010 reflect on and offer protection to the identities of the non-binary?

Lead Research Organisation: University of Exeter
Department Name: The Law School

Abstract

This project is concerned with critically examining section 7 of the Equality Act 2010, in light of rapid legal changes caused by the UK's removal from the EU, regarding whether its doctrinal language is
sufficient alone in offering protection to the UK's non-binary transgender populace. As a piece of legislation heavily influenced by pressure from the ECHR Convention and the anti-discrimination policies of the EU, the Equality Act is a vital piece of human rights legislation protecting vulnerable minority groups within the UK. However, following the removal of the EU's protections in a post-Brexit UK, alongside the governments promise to review and potentially repeal the Human Rights Act, the Equality Act 2010 has become more central than ever before as many individuals' sole source of legal protection. This is especially concerning for some groups, such as the UK's non-binary populace, due to continued debate over whether or not their identities fall under the protections of the Equality Act.

Over the past decade, social studies into the experiences and wellbeing of the non-binary community specifically have shown repeatedly that despite being a relatively small populace, non-binary people
within the UK are reporting at a significantly higher risk of mental health issues and lack of social support compared to both cisgender people and binary transgender people, putting them at a greater risk of discrimination and need for legal support.

However, despite this recorded vulnerability, there remains a divisive argument over whether or not this community is legally recognized by the Equality Act 2010. This has been exacerbated over the
years by conflicting evidence, including multiple campaigns to alter the wording of the Act's 'gender reassignment' section and following the decision in the 2020 Employment Tribunal Case Taylor vs Land Rover Ltd. (2015 Early Day Motion EDM660, January 2016, Trans Inquiry Report by the Women and Equalities Committee; UK Equality Act 2010).

As an established vulnerable group, especially to mental health issues, a lack of meaningful access to legal protection in the face of a discrimination case could cause a significant rise in health concerns
among the community, putting them at great risk.

The aim of this study, therefore, is to critically analyse the applicability of section 7 of the Equality Act 2010 for offering legal protection to a variety of non-binary individuals, and as an example analysis of
the Equality Act in its current form, reflecting on the potential need for further investigation. The proposed study would be a 3-year mixed theoretical and empirical socio-legal study, combining critical legal theory to analyse the history and social background framing the current position of the 'gender reassignment' section of the Equality Act 2010 alongside a qualitative empirical approach on the first-hand perspective on gender identity within the nonbinary population of the UK and perspectives on what future changes should include ensuring protection.

This will allow for an exploration of intent versus impact within the doctrinal language, whether its language matches with personal experience of gender identity regardless of its applicability and the consequences of this, resulting in a conclusion on whether further action is necessary. In a rapidly changing post-Brexit legal climate, the protection of vulnerable minorities within the UK is vitally in need of corroboration, and this study will aim to act as a case study for one of the most underrepresented.

Publications

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Studentship Projects

Project Reference Relationship Related To Start End Student Name
ES/P000630/1 01/10/2017 30/09/2027
2588226 Studentship ES/P000630/1 01/10/2021 30/09/2024 Rebecca Munday