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Update on Equality Legislation

The Gender Recognition Act 2004 received Royal Assent on 1st July 2004, meaning it is now law.

The Act will enable transsexual people who have taken decisive steps to live fully and permanently in their acquired gender to apply for legal recognition of that gender. Transsexual people have until now lived in a state of legal limbo, between the gender in which they were registered at birth and the gender in which they are now living. This Act will remedy that situation.

A panel of legal and medical experts would authorise the gender recognition. Registrars and other professionals involved would be under a legal obligation not to divulge the fact that a person had changed gender.

The Act brings to fruition the work of the Interdepartmental Working Group on Transsexual People, which the Government established in 1999. It also honours the Government's obligations under Human Rights law to secure the rights of transsexual people.

Gender Recognition Panels will be established under the Act to determine applications for legal recognition. Successful applicants will be able to demonstrate to legal and medical panel members that they have, or have had, gender dysphoria, ( a drive to live in the opposite gender to that in which a person has been registered at birth. It is a widely recognised medical condition,) that they have lived for at least the last two years in their acquired gender and that they intend to do so until death.

Successful applicants will be issued with a gender recognition certificate and will have the right, from the date of recognition, to marry in their acquired gender and be given birth certificates that recognise the acquired gender. Transsexual people will be able to obtain benefits and State Pension just like anyone else of that gender. (Source: Dept of Constitutional Affairs).

From 1 October 2004, new duties under Part 3 of the Disability Discrimination Act come into force1.

From this date, everyone providing services to the public will have to make ‘reasonable adjustments’ to the physical features of their premises which make it impossible or unreasonably difficult for disabled people to gain access to the service. Physical features also include fixtures, fitting, furnishings or furniture. In addition to access, ‘reasonable adjustments’ would include emergency egress in the case of fire, or other emergencies. The act sets out four possible options from 1 October 2004: removing, altering, or avoiding a physical feature, or providing the service by alternative means. The Disability Rights Commission has produced a Code of Practice on Rights of Access. Available at:

Although education is not covered by part iii of the Act, any other educational, or training services provided to the public are likely to be subject to part iii.

Education is however covered by part ii of the DDA in relation to employment and part iv of the Act, SENDA, which requires universities to provide information on access to education for disabled students and not only not to discriminate, but to meet the needs of all disabled students by making anticipatory reasonable adjustments, as opposed to adjustments for disabled employees which are to be made on an individual basis

The Disability Discrimination Act (Amendment) Regulations 2003 also come into force in October. They make explicit that you cannot justify less favourable treatment to someone because of their disability, extend the duty to make adjustments to include training and mentoring and place the burden of proof on the HEI, for example, to prove that discrimination did not occur.


1. The Disability Discrimination Act, (DDA) introduced in 1995, is divided into specific areas. Part ii -employment, Part iii -goods, facilities and services, part iv -special educational needs, (SENDA), part v -transport. The duties have been introduced in stages.



Last updated: 12th October 2016