The Future of Legal Gender is funded by the UK Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC). The project started in May 2018 and will conclude in March 2022, following a 1-year extension.
The aim of the project is to critically explore the question of “legal gender” . This is a term we use for the different ways in which law explicitly treats people as having a gender or sex that is stable, unitary, binary and carried with them. Focusing on the jurisdiction of England and Wales, we ask: What would be the social, cultural and political implications if the ways that state law treated people’s sex/ gender radically changed? What concerns, problems and challenges would such proposals invoke, particularly for thinking about equality and social justice? The project will draw on experiences in other countries, the legal approach taken towards other social characteristics, such as religion, ethnicity and sexuality, and the views of activists, policy-makers, NGOs, lawyers and the wider public.
Phase One looked at legal systems for determining and regulating gender around the world. In light of law reforms being proposed and introduced internationally, its aim was to put the radical proposal of abolishing legal gender status into conversation with policy-makers, activists and NGOs.
Phase Two explored the implications of either radically reforming or abolishing the current system by which people are legally gendered, including through registering sex at birth. The research was divided into four separate strands.
We have now entered Phase Three of the project. We will provide a concluding analysis of the viability, strengths and weaknesses of different law reform options based on interdisciplinary scholarship and the research we have carried out. We will also produce a draft bill in the form of an annotated experimental statute, setting out our assessment of how law reform might be operationalised and some of its challenges. This will combine our research findings with feminist and other critical principles for law reform.
Photos (Flickr): “Kelvingrove Lights” by Stephen D. Strowes; “School” by Peter Reed.