The Equality Act prohibits discrimination based on gender identity and gender expression. Human gender identity and gender expression come in a multitude of forms, and not everyone is unambiguously female or male. Gender minorities include trans people, such as transgender, non-binary and transvestite people, as well as intersexual people.
Gender minorities have been an increasingly large part of the work of the Ombudsman for Equality since 2004. The Ombudsman for Equality has actively strived to improve gender minorities' protection against discrimination and called for statutory-level regulations to improve equality for gender minorities.
The reformed Equality Act, which took effect on 1 January 2015, prohibits discrimination based on gender identity and gender expression. The Act also obligates authorities, education providers and employees to prevent discrimination.
The new provisions related to discrimination based on gender identity and gender expression were included in the Equality Act to clarify and broaden the scope of the protection of gender minorities against discrimination, although it should be noted that the same provisions apply to all people and not only gender minorities. The premise behind the amendments is the idea of gender diversity and that every person has their own gender experience and way of expressing gender.
Discrimination based on gender identity and gender expression
After changes to the Equality Act, which took effect on 1 January 2015, the Act acknowledges gender diversity. The Equality Act prohibits discrimination based on gender identity and gender expression. The Act also obligates authorities, education providers and employees to prevent discrimination based on gender identity and gender expression.
In the Equality Act, the phrase 'gender identity' refers to an individual's experience of their own gender, while the phrase 'gender expression' refers to expressing one's gender through clothing, behaviour, or by other means. The regulations on discrimination based on gender identity and gender expression also apply to discrimination against individuals whose physical gender-defining characteristics are not unambiguously female or male.
Gender minorities include trans people, such as transgender, non-binary and transvestite people, as well as intersexual people.
Transgendered people do not feel like they belong to the gender that they were assigned at birth. This contradiction can be corrected with e.g. hormonal treatment and surgery if needed. Medical gender reassignment treatment is not always possible, however, and sometimes the person does not want to have treatment.
The gender reassignment process is a stage when the transgendered person receives medical gender reassignment treatment, if they so wish, their legal gender and name is changed, and they live according to their own gender identity.
Transvestites are people who also want to express the other gender in their personality. The majority are men who sometimes like to bring out their feminine side by dressing and acting like women.
Non-binary people are people who live on the border of, between or outside of manhood and womanhood. A non-binary person can feel genderless, of an undefined gender, or have their own combination of characteristics, style and personality traits which are seen as male or female. Some non-binary people require similar treatment as transgender people in order to get their body to match their gender identity.
Intersexuality is a congenital condition where the physical gender-defining characteristics of a person are not unambiguously female or male. Gender assignment and surgery which is done when the child is very young and without asking the child's opinion may violate the child’s right to bodily integrity.
Do you suspect discrimination?
If you suspect that you have been discriminated against, instructions and guidance are available from the Ombudsman for Equality.
In cases of discrimination at work:
- If you are a member of a trade union, you should get in touch with the shop steward and find out your rights.
- Guidance from the Ombudsman for Equality is free. Trade union membership fees include the right to legal advice.
- You can also contact a legal aid council, a lawyer's office or a lawyer. You will usually be charged for legal services. Check if you have the kind of legal expenses insurance that will also cover your legal expenses.
If you have a low income, you may be entitled to the services of a public legal aid attorney for free or reduced price.