ONS backs down on ‘what is your sex?’ Census legal dispute The Telegraph 17.03.21

The original article is here.

The Office of National Statistics (ONS) has backed down over a Census legal dispute, leaving the High Court to rule that sex must not be self-identified on the nationwide survey.

For this year’s Census, the ONS issued new guidance for the question ‘what is your sex?’ which read: “If you are considering how to answer, use the sex recorded on one of your legal documents such as a birth certificate, Gender Recognition Certificate, or passport.”

Campaigners argued that the guidance allowed “self-identification through the back door” because the sex on a passport can be altered without a formal legal process.

Mr Justice Swift last week ruled in favour of the campaigners, ordering that the sentence should be temporarily rewritten to remove the words “such as” and passport” ahead of a full judicial review this week.

But the ONS today withdrew from the legal proceedings, conceding that the meaning of sex in the Census should mean sex as recognised by the law, rather than gender identity.

Fair Play For Women, the group which brought the legal action, said the guidance would have “corrupted” national data, leaving “women and girls to pay the price”.

Dr Nicola Williams, director of Fair Play For Women, said: “Being male or female is a biological reality that affects all our lives. That’s why it’s important to collect accurate data on sex in the Census.

“Against the advice of data experts and concerns raised by feminists and lawyers the ONS pushed on with this hare-brained idea. It should not be necessary to publicly crowdfund over £100,000 to launch an emergency legal challenge just weeks before Census Day.

“The public needs to trust that our National Statistician will always prioritise good data over political correctness”.

The nationwide Census is due to take place on March 21. Last week’s emergency hearing in the High Court heard that more than three million people had already completed the survey in line with the old guidance.

An ONS spokeswoman said: “The ONS is committed to ensuring we deliver a high quality, inclusive census that enables everyone to be counted. Following the court’s judgment, we will be focusing all our efforts on maximising responses to Census 2021 from everyone and will not be progressing further with the case.

“We have worked with a broad range of organisations and individuals on a full range of census questions. As an independent producer of statistics, it is our role to ensure the final set of census questions is a suitable balance to meet the overall user need.

“We are continuing to ask a binary choice, female or male, sex question on the census. This approach is unchanged since 1801. There is also a new voluntary question on gender identity for people aged 16 years and over later in the questionnaire.

“As with previous censuses, most people will not need help to answer the sex question. For those that do, we are providing guidance, as we do for all census questions. In line with the court’s order we amended the guidance on the sex question to advise people to use the sex as recorded on a birth certificate or gender recognition certificate if they are considering how to answer.

“As for anyone who’s circumstances change between completing the questionnaire and census day, if people want to resubmit their census because of the change to the sex question guidance, they are able to do so. They should contact us to request a new access code, details are available on our website. We continue to provide support to anyone who needs help to fill out their census questionnaires during the census period.”

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