Controversial Bill that would allow biological males to stand as women in Senedd elections is postponed
The Welsh Government has unexpectedly postponed publication of a controversial Bill that would allow biological men to identify as women for the purpose of standing as candidates for the Senedd.
The move has led to speculation that serious legal difficulties have become apparent during the drafting of the Bill.
Under the Senedd reform package agreed between the Welsh Government and Plaid Cymru in their Co-Operation Agreement, the number of Senedd Members will increase from 60 to 96, the voting system will change and a number of other measures will be introduced, including reverting to a four-year term of office. A piece of legislation covering these reforms called the Senedd Cymru (Members and Elections) Bill was introduced in September.
Omitted from the Bill was another major commitment aimed at creating a gender-balanced Senedd via the voting system. At the time the first Bill was published, a commitment was made to introduce a second Bill covering gender balance by the end of 2023. Sources suggested that this element of the reform package had been separated from the main Bill because of concerns that aspects of it might be seen as beyond the Senedd’s powers.
In particular, the notion that transgender people who were biological males could identify as females without any kind of medical certificate was seen as potentially problematic.
An early draft of the Bill, passed to Nation.Cymru, included a section which said: “For the purposes of this section … ‘woman’ includes a transgender woman. ‘Transgender woman’ means a person (T) who is proposing to undergo, is undergoing or has undergone a process or part of a process for the purpose of reassigning T’s sex to female by changing physiological or other attributes of sex.
“An order under Section 13 [of the Draft Bill] must make provision requiring a person (P) as part of the process by which P is nominated as a candidate to declare either that P is a woman or that P is not.
“A constituency returning officer may not challenge or make any enquiry in relation to a statement made by a candidate in accordance with an order under Section 13 that the candidate is a woman.”
Hannah Blythyn, the Deputy Minister for Social Partnership, was due to announce details of the updated version of the Bill in the Senedd on Tuesday December 5. Journalists were due to receive a technical briefing about what is known as the Senedd Cymru (Electoral Candidate Lists) Bill on the morning of November 30.
But the briefing was postponed on November 29, with a brief statement that said: “We’re still working on the Senedd Cymru (Electoral Candidate Lists) Bill, but we won’t be publishing it on December 4 as anticipated.”
The Welsh Government was unable to give any details about when the Bill might now be published.
Cathy Larkman from the Women’s Rights Network Wales, which has campaigned against gender self-identification, said: “The Gender Quotas Bill has clearly now been renamed The Senedd Cymru (Electoral Candidates Lists) Bill and was to be published on December 5. “For a Bill that claims to increase the representation of women in political life, what it would actually do is introduce self-ID by the back door and allow the Welsh Government to redefine ‘women’ to include any man who says he is one. This was always an outrageous prospect with grievous consequences for the women of Wales and our future rights for single-sex spaces and services in Wales.
“The Welsh Government surely does not have the authority to interfere in reserved matters and equalities legislation is clearly a reserved matter. A similar situation was played out disastrously in Scotland, but our First Minister and his team appear to either misunderstand their legislative powers or are wilfully ignoring the fact that equalities legislation is a reserved matter and hoping no one notices.
“We trust that the fact that the Bill has suddenly been stalled, will mean that they have had a moment of clarity about the legal consequences of persisting with this ill-advised and tone-deaf, ideological mission. Any attempt to push this through will be challenged in the courts.
“It is high time that the Welsh Government started to listen to women and our valid concerns. Perhaps they would then not make such serious errors of judgment.”
At the time it was announced that there would be a separate Bill covering gender balance at the Senedd, Dr Lisa Cordery-Bruce, a trustee of Pride Cymru, said: “Trans women are women. Trans women have a right to stand for election as their authentic selves.”
“There has never been an openly-transgender person elected to our national parliament and it is a glass ceiling that needs smashing.”
A spokesperson for the LGBT campaign group Stonewall Cymru said at the time: “We fully support any measure to empower all women, including trans women, to take part in politics and seek election in the Senedd.
“Trans women make up 0.1% of the population in Wales. However, it is important that legislation such as this is inclusive of trans people and of other minority groups to ensure that our communities are all reflected within the Senedd.”
Support our Nation today
For the price of a cup of coffee a month you can help us create an independent, not-for-profit, national news service for the people of Wales, by the people of Wales.