Welsh government ‘trampling over women’s rights’ with call to loosen trans rules

Mark Drakeford, the Welsh First Minister - Dominic Lipinski/AFP
Mark Drakeford, the Welsh First Minister - Dominic Lipinski/AFP

The Welsh Labour government has been accused of “trampling over women’s rights” by asking to introduce Scottish-style trans laws to make it easier for people to change gender.

The devolved administration has unveiled a new LGBTQ+ action plan that aims to allow people to self-identify their gender without having to apply for a certificate, and to recognise non-binary people on passports and driving licences.

But on Wednesday, the UK Government indicated that it would not give Wales the powers it needs to do so. At present, the Welsh Senedd is not able to legislate on issues relating to equality.

Under the action plan, the Welsh government will “initiate conversations” with Westminster so it can be granted the powers.

A spokesman for the UK Government’s Equality Hub said: “Ensuring that LGBT people are treated equally is a priority for this Government. In recent months, we have committed to an inclusive ban on conversion practices and we are taking steps to improve healthcare and eliminate new transmissions of HIV by 2030.

“We share the concerns that others have set out with proposed reforms to the GRC [Gender Recognition Certificate] application process, particularly around safety issues for women and children. As a result of this, there are no plans to reform the Gender Recognition Act in England or Wales.”

Welsh government ‘being tone deaf’

Cardiff’s plan is opposed by campaigners who say that allowing anyone to self-identify could impact on women’s rights such as women-only spaces.

Wales-Women’s Rights Network, a campaign group, said the Welsh government was being “tone deaf to events in Scotland” and that it was another government “prepared to trample over women’s rights”.

The Welsh Conservatives accused Labour of using gay and trans people as a “political tool” in a bid to snatch more power from Westminster.

Altaf Hussain, equalities spokesman, said: “We have seen the chaos that the SNP have brought about with devolved powers, and now Labour ministers are seeking to do the same.

“Members of the LGBTQ+ community deserve our respect, support and understanding. They don’t deserve to be used as a political tool by Labour ministers in their bid to secure more powers.”

Stonewall Cymru welcomed the proposals, but said that “we shouldn’t be complacent”.

National trans guidance for schools

The document, drawn up as part of a co-operation agreement between the Welsh government and Plaid Cymru, said it would “trigger” a request with the UK Government to devolve powers related to gender recognition.

Last month, the UK Government said it would block legislation put forward by the Scottish government that would make it easier for people in the country to change their legally recognised gender. It said the draft law would conflict with equality protections applying across Great Britain.

Mark Drakeford, the Welsh First Minister, has said Wales should have a gender self-identification system similar to the one approved in Scotland.

Under the plan, the Welsh government would use “all available powers to ban all aspects” of conversion therapy practices, which refers to any form of treatment or psychotherapy aiming to change a person’s sexual orientation or to suppress a person’s gender identity, and “seek the devolution of any necessary additional powers”.

In the education sector, the action plan sets out to provide national trans guidance for schools and local authorities in Wales.

The plan, according to the document, would ensure that maternity and fertility services are accessible and straightforward to use for LGBTQ+ people by “reviewing and improving” fertility referral pathways.

Hannah Blythyn, the deputy minister for social partnership, said: “The plan is ambitious, but with hope at its heart. We are absolutely committed to meaningful change for LGBTQ+ communities, creating a society and country where LGBTQ+ people are safe to live and love authentically, openly and freely as ourselves.”