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by Louise Wilson
01 November 2023
Definition of ‘woman’ includes trans women with GRC, court rules

The appeal was heard at the Court of Session last month | Alamy Stock

Definition of ‘woman’ includes trans women with GRC, court rules

The definition of “woman” under the Equality Act includes trans women who have obtained a gender recognition certificate (GRC), the court has ruled.

Campaign group For Women Scotland (FWS) brought the case against Scottish Government guidance relating to the Gender Representation on Public Boards Act.

The guidance – which was updated following an earlier ruling on a case also brought by FWS – said the definition of women included trans women with a gender recognition certificate, but not those only intending to acquire one.

This position has been upheld by Lady Dorrian, the Lord Justice Clerk, following a hearing last month at the Court of Session.

The judgment confirms: “A person with a GRC in their acquired gender possesses the protected characteristic of gender reassignment… they also possess the protected characteristic of sex according to the terms of their GRC.”

It continues: “Individuals without a GRC, whether they have the protected characteristic of gender reassignment or not, retain the sex in which they were born.”

FWS had been appealing a ruling made by Lady Haldane late last year. The group argued that the wider definition meant those who were “biologically male” but held a GRC would be included, which would have knock-on effects for providers of single-sex services.

The Equality Act allows services to be provided on a single-sex basis as long as it is a “proportionate means of achieving a legitimate aim” – such as the provision of domestic abuse support, single-sex hospital wards or women-only swimming sessions at public pools.

A statement from For Women Scotland following the ruling said: “Naturally, we are hugely disappointed in today’s judgment, which has ruled that women’s protections under law may – in some cases – include men who have obtained a GRC.

“We are obviously still analysing the decision and will be speaking to our legal team in due course to consider the possibility of a further challenge.”

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