Can law address gender inequality without a legal status?

Following the Scottish Green Party’s proposal to remove sex and gender from birth certificates, Dr Flora Renz, an expert in the legal regulation of (trans)gender identities and sexuality in society at Kent Law School has commented on the implications. Dr Renz said:

‘The recent commitment by the Scottish Greens to implement the Yogyakarta principles, which includes ending sex/gender registration on birth certificates, is in line with moves in several other jurisdictions to remove sex/gender from birth certificates, as well as ongoing reforms to make law gender neutral and simplify the legal recognition of gender transitioning.

‘My own research has been exploring the impact reforms to, or even the removal of legal sex/gender would have in the context of single-sex spaces such as schools and refuges. For some the introduction of legally recognised gender categories beyond male/female is seen as beneficial, while others argue that removing legal recognition of gender entirely would greatly contribute to the reduction of gender’s relevance in daily life. At the same time, some women’s rights advocates have raised concerns that removing the legal status of sex will make it harder to organise single-sex provision, as well as gather data about persisting inequality between women and men including domestic and sexual abuse.

‘However, removing the formal legal status that sex currently holds, does not mean that gender inequality cannot be addressed, although any reform proposals would need to be attentive to this issue. One option might be that sex/gender in law could become more like other protected characteristics such as sexual orientation or race, in the sense that it would no longer be legally certified, but still a legitimate subject for anti-discrimination and equality measures to address the subordination of specific groups, including women.’

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