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Victoria Hewson is a solicitor and Rebecca Lowe is the former director of FREER, and a former assistant editor of ConservativeHome. Together they founded Radical, a campaign for truth and freedom in the gender recognition debate.

With so many stories from the sex and gender debate vying for attention this week, we’ve put together a quick briefing on just a few of them: 

Sex and the Census

Last autumn, we wrote about the battle over the ‘sex question’ in this March’s census. After much obfuscation, the ONS announced in February that its guidance for completing the question ‘what is your sex’ would advise people that they can ‘use the sex recorded on one of your legal documents such as a birth certificate, Gender Recognition Certificate, or passport.’

Now, since it is possible to change the sex marker on documents like passports and driving licences on request, without any formal process, this means in effect that trans people are being told that they do not need to include their biological sex, and can answer with the sex they self-identify as, instead.

Moves towards recording self-identified gender instead of biological sex have been strongly criticised by leading academics in the field. The campaign group Fair Play for Women is bringing a judicial review of the ONS guidance. Remarkably, when it received notice of the legal challenge, the ONS expedited the release of the online census, which means that people are already completing it, making the guidance harder to overturn.

Readers can support the judicial review crowd fund here. Readers might also consider joining the campaign by organisations including the Safe Schools Alliance and Conservatives for Women, to register opposition to the ONS approach, by requesting a paper copy of the census and returning it with a letter asking to have their sex recorded as ‘registered at birth’. 

Maternity leave

Our second dispatch from beyond the looking glass comes from the parliamentary debate on the bill to allow Cabinet ministers to take maternity leave. Following a rebellion in the House of Lords, the Government relented, and will allow the law to refer to ‘mother’ instead of ‘pregnant person’.

The bill had been drafted in ‘gender neutral’ terms, in the mistaken belief that this is what drafting protocols require. In fact, gender-neutral language is only required when it is not necessary to refer to one sex or the other. The Equality Act, for example, is very clear in its references to women in the context of pregnancy discrimination (though it dates from 2010, when clearly much more backward views on gender identity were prevalent!).

It is therefore puzzling that the minister in the Commons, Penny Mordaunt, claimed that using the word ‘woman’ would have caused legal difficulties. Equally misguided were the claims that the change made in the Lords would introduce discrimination against transmen who fall pregnant. It is established in case law that a transman who gives birth is still the mother of the child for legal purposes.

The debate in the House of Lords was refreshingly open and well informed, illustrating by contrast how poor the discourse on this matter is in other forums, where activists pushing misinformation have been able to dominate and silence people who do not feel as able to speak freely as their Lordships. Mordaunt herself used the opportunity at the dispatch box to repeat, without explanation, that ‘transwomen are women and transmen are men’.

Children’s rights

Our third relevant news-story pertains to the appointment of a new Children’s Commissioner for England. The Office of the Children’s Commissioner was established in 2005, in accordance with the Children Act 2004, and following the recommendation of the Victoria Climbié Inquiry, and the previous establishment of similar roles in the other UK nations. The role was extended following the Dunford Review, and in accordance with the Children and Families Act 2014.

Its current focus, according to the office’s website, is to “promote and protect the rights of children, especially the most vulnerable”. It is promising, therefore, to note that the new commissioner, Dame Rachel De Souza, spoke, in her opening message, of the importance of the “sense of adults really taking responsibility for the future of children”. Too often today it feels as if adults in power are purposefully oblivious of the fact that children’s powers of reasoning are in development: that there are decisions they are simply unable to make for themselves.

In the time we have spent at Radical considering matters of sex and gender, we have come across many disturbing matters. But there’s no question that the most disturbing of these relate to what’s been happening to many of the vulnerable children who have been referred to UK professionals for help with gender-related issues — claimedly in the ‘interests’ of these children, according their own ‘wishes’.

As we have reported many times, and recent court cases have documented, the mental-health problems of these children have, too often, been overlooked, and they have been medicalised in ways they simply cannot understand, never mind give consent to. These children have been treated as political footballs, quickly dropped by self-serving ‘gender-identity’ activists — who manipulated them and their parents into seeing these irreversible experimental ‘treatments’ as an exciting nirvana — if they step out of line, as in the case of the increasing numbers of ‘detransitioners’.

These children urgently need a proper protector, who understands what it means to be a child, and why it is so deeply wrong that these children have been let down and harmed in this way. Indeed, this protection is their right — not only under the recent pieces of aforementioned legislation, but fundamentally.

De Souza has a track record as a champion fighting for the highest-standards of education for all: even a Guardian article, focused on criticising De Souza’s links to the Conservative Party, stated that “[e]ven critics acknowledge her success as a headteacher who has improved schools in deprived areas serving disadvantaged children”. 

She also has a keen interest in philosophy and theology. We’re hopeful, therefore, that she will be the protector these vulnerable children so badly require. We also note that her part of her role is “gathering evidence”, so we shall write to her soon, to share our findings. 

Prison policy

Our final item of the week is news of the commencement, yesterday, of the Judicial Review of the Ministry of Justice’s transgender prisoner policy. This review was granted to a female prisoner, and addresses her claim of indirect sex-based discrimination. You can follow the hashtag #prisonJR on Twitter for up-to-date commentary on the case — not least from Fair Play for Women, which is live-tweeting the proceedings. 

Regardless of whether current and upcoming court cases following the emerging trend — and the gender-identity activists continue, finally, to be held to account — proper formal publicity about what’s been going on can only be for the good.