UK Census guidance on how to answer sex question must be rewritten, High Court rules The Telegraph 09.03.21

The original article is here.

The guidance on how to answer the sex question on the UK census must be rewritten, the High Court has ruled.

The Office of National Statistics this year issued new guidance on how to answer the question ‘what is your sex?’ on the nationwide survey, 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 someone’s passport can be altered without legally changing gender first.

Mr Justice Swift on Tuesday ruled in favour of the campaigners, granting them interim relief and ordering that the guidance should be rewritten to remove the words “such as” and “passport”.

Mr Justice Swift also gave the green light for the case to proceed forward to a full judicial review, which could be heard as early as next week.

Fair Play For Women, which crowdfunded £100,000 to bring the legal challenge against the guidance, argued that withdrawing it now would be the “safer option” given that the Census will go live on March 21.

The court heard that three million people – around one fifth of households – have already filled the questionnaire online.

Responding to the judgment Nicola Williams, from Fair Play for Women, said: “This is a warning to the all the public authorities that you can’t just decide for yourselves what sex is. Sex has a meaning, it’s important and it has a meaning to women and girls.

“If we can’t define it then it undermines women’s rights.

“This is a line in the sand to say that sex means sex, it’s not the same as gender identity.”

She added: “The state recognises sex as what’s on a birth certificate or Gender Recognition Certificate.

“It was recently confirmed, following extensive public consultation, that sex should not be self-declared.

“The Government decided this ‘strikes the right balance’ to retain ‘proper checks and balances in the system’.

“Despite this the ONS decides it will instead recognise sex as what’s written on any other documents, all of which can be easily updated on demand without any ‘proper checks and balances’.

“This is sex self-ID through the back door.”

In a statement posted on its website in February, the ONS said: “We are continuing to ask a binary choice male or female sex question on the Census.

“This approach is unchanged since 1801. There is a new voluntary question on gender identity for people aged 16 years and over later in the questionnaire.

“We have worked closely with organisations and individuals from a wide range of representative groups over five years to ensure the Census questions we ask provide the best information possible.

“As with previous censuses, most people will not need help to answer the sex question, but for those that do, guidance will suggest they use sex as recorded on legal documents such as a birth certificate, gender recognition certificate or passport.

“By referring to ‘legal documents’ the guidance makes clear we are referring to government-issued documents.

“This is not self-identification, which was evaluated as part of a range of options but not taken forward.”

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