United Kingdom - January 2023
British government vetoes Scottish gender recognition bill
The British government blocked a Scottish law that makes it easier for trans people to have their gender legally recognised. The Gender Recognition Reform Bill, passed by the Scottish Parliament in December 2022, made it possible for people over the age of 16 to change their gender on official documents by self-declaration, removing the requirement for a medical diagnosis. For the first time since devolution in 1999, the British government used its power to block the law, arguing that the law risks undermining UK-wide equality legislation. Kemi Badenoch, British Minister for Women and Equalities, stated that the law threatens to make it easier for predatory men to gain access to spaces intended for women. Nicola Sturgeon, Scotland’s leader, called the move a Conservative party challenge to Scottish democracy, while also “weaponizing a stigmatised, vulnerable, often marginalised group.”
Parliament weighs introducing minimum cover during strikes
The House of Commons passed a bill giving government the power to unilaterally require certain levels of service provision from striking workers. Designed to minimize the impact of strikes on the public, it will now go to the House of Lords before becoming law. Protracted public sector strikes affected the UK’s hospitals, transport networks, and other essential services in December 2022. The strikers demanded higher wages in response to mounting inflation (nearing a 40-year high of 10.5 per cent in the UK in December), as rising energy and food prices have put pressure on households. If passed, the law will rely on minimum service agreements for public sector employees, and unions have referred to them as “undemocratic, unworkable and illegal,” according to the British Broadcasting Corporation. The law risks disproportionately affecting minority groups, who comprise 44 per cent of National Health Service (NHS) staff.
Sources: The Guardian, British Broadcasting Corporation (1), UK Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy, House of Commons Library (1), House of Commons Library (2), British Broadcasting Corporation (2), Office of National Statistics