The guidance on the question of sex in the UK census must be changed before the official day for completion on March 21, ruled a higher court judge.
The Office for National Statistics (ONS) had issued new advice on how to answer the question “What is your sex?” in this year’s survey, which said: “If you are considering how to respond, use the sex recorded on one of your legal documents, such as a birth certificate, gender recognition certificate or passport.”
She added: “If you are 16 or older, there is a voluntary question on gender identity later. This asks if the gender you identify with is different from your registered sex at birth. If it is different, you can register your gender identity. “
However, on Tuesday, Judge Swift ordered the guide to be rewritten to remove the words “like” and “or passport,” to make it clear that respondents should only use the sex recorded at their birth or gender recognition certificate. . Just over an hour after the judge’s sentence the text had been changed.
The campaign group Fair Play For Women, which funded £ 100,000 to present the legal challenge, had argued that the ONS wording allowed “back door self-identification”.
Jason Coppel QC, representing the group, told the court that the guide “combines and confuses” sex with gender identity, noting that a person’s sex on a passport or other legal document, such as a driver’s license, can be modified without formal legal authorization. process. This ran the risk of “distorting” the data that the ONS collected through the census, he added.
In giving permission for the case to proceed to a full judicial review, the judge said there was a “mismatch” between the way the guide was written and the legislation that establishes how the census should be conducted.
He added that he was satisfied that the campaign group had a “strongly debatable case” and was “more likely to be successful” regarding the legal meaning of sex as defined in the legislation.
Lawyers for Fair Play For Women had argued that it would be “safer” to withdraw the guide, given the shortage of time until the day of the census. Census printouts do not contain the new guidance.
The census will take place in England, Wales and Northern Ireland on March 21, while the Scottish census was postponed for a year due to the coronavirus.
Respondents are asked to complete the online form that day or as soon as possible thereafter, but the website is already available. The judge was surprised that, according to the ONS, a fifth of households (about 3 million) had already completed the survey when it was “clear” that the day of the census was Sunday, March 21.
Dr. Nicola Williams, Director of Fair Play for Women, said in a statement before the hearing: “Accurate data on sexual matters. It is more important for women and girls. We need it. If we don’t have good data on sex, we can’t monitor inequalities due to sex, and if we can’t measure it, we can’t make good policies to remedy it. “
In a statement posted on its website in February, the ONS said it kept asking a binary choice sex question in the census with the only possible responses from male or female.
“This approach has not changed since 1801. There is a new voluntary question on gender identity for persons 16 years and older later in the questionnaire,” the statement said.
He continued: “As with previous censuses, most people will not need help answering the question about sex … By referring to ‘legal documents’, the guide makes it clear that we are referring to documents issued by the government. This is not a self-identification, which was evaluated as part of a series of options, but was not carried out. “
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism