This project on the Future of Legal Gender is funded by the UK Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC). Commencing in May 2018, the project was initially scheduled to run for three years until April 2021. It has now been extended to March 2022.
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.
Part One of the research 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.
We are currently in the second phase of our research. This exploring the implications of either radically reforming or abolishing the current system by which people are legally gendered, including through registering sex at birth. Our research is divided into four separate strands.
The final phase of the project 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. As part of this final stage, 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.