UK Athletics claims law change needed to ban trans women from female events | Athletics

UK Athletics has announced that it wants to ban transgender women from female events on fairness grounds – but claims it can’t do so unless the government changes the law.

UKA’s new transgender position, released on Friday, indicates that it wants to go down a similar path to British Triathlon, the Rugby Football Union and Rugby Football League, who have all sought to protect the female sport category on fairness and/or safety grounds.

But while UKA now makes clear that the women’s category should be reserved “for competitors who were female at birth, so that they can continue to compete fairly”, it says the government must introduce legislation to ensure beyond doubt that it will not be legally challenged.

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Under UKA’s new proposals, everyone else would be allowed to compete in a new “open” category, which would replace the current male one.

“It’s about two of our acts,” the UKA chair Ian Beattie said. “The Gender Recognition Act 2004, and the Equalities Act 2010. The GRA states that people with gender recognition certificates have to be treated as female for all purposes. And there’s not an exemption for that for sporting purposes.

“So I think it’s fair to say that if we didn’t get a legal change, it would be very difficult for us to go ahead with this policy,” he added. “Because I think the risks to the organisation we would see as too high.”

However government sources have told the Guardian that UKA’s position is not the case, and the 2010 Equality Act does allow sports to protect the female sport category.

British Triathlon also said it had taken legal advice about introducing an open and a protected female category and was confident its new policy was “robust” and protected by the Equality Act.

UKA’s position statement comes in response to proposals laid out last month by World Athletics, which says that trans women and athletes with a difference of sex development should be able to compete in the elite female category if they lower their blood testosterone to below 2.5 nanomoles per litre for 24 months.

That led to an immediate outcry among British athletes, with Beth Dobbin, Emily Diamond, Amelia Strickler and Ellie Baker calling the plan unfair to female athletes.

UKA makes it clear that it agrees with its athletes, pointing that the science showed that trans women “retain a testosterone/puberty advantage over biological females regardless of the reduction of post puberty testosterone levels”.

“The category of women’s sport arose not as a response to women’s social role or personal gender identity, but to ensure fair competition amongst female athletes by eliminating the advantages enjoyed by male athletes on account of their sex,” it adds.

The women’s campaign group Fair Play for Women also called for the government to make the law clearer but said it was concerned that UK Athletics had not been bolder.

“It’s clear now that the government must provide leadership on this issue,” it said. “Everyone agrees sport should be fair, and for women and girls that means female-only. Yet here is one of our biggest sports saying they’re afraid to do so. It’s good to see recognition of the reality of sex but disappointing they won’t act on it.”

Another campaign group, Sex Matters, said its legal advice strongly differed from UKA’s position. “Sex Matters agrees with UKA that female-only sports are essential to provide safe and fair competition for women, our analysis is that no legal change is required,” it said. “Female-only competition is already lawful under the Equality Act.”

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