The unspoken section of the Gender Recognition Act: Privacy

You’ll be forgiven for not hearing about section 22 before, but it’s important and broken.

We are a privacy-focused society at the moment. From GDPR to Cambridge Analytica, we’re all a bit more concerned about our personal data, who has it, and what they’re doing with it.

The same applies to people who are going through the process to change the Gender recorded on their birth certificate in the United Kingdom. Legally speaking individuals who have received a Gender Recognition Certificate have a right to “Prohibition on Disclosure of information” that phrasing being the official heading of section 22 of the Gender Recognition Act 2004.

You’ll be forgiven if you’ve never heard about section 22 before, in the majority of conversations on Reform of the GRA, section 22 isn’t being discussed. This needs to change, there is less than 2 weeks left on the Government’s consultation and section 22 is a crucial but broken part of the Act.

Section 22 is important because protecting trans people from being outed can be a matter of safety, an unauthorised disclosure can cause harassment at work, at home, or in public, it could lead to violence, being kicked out of home, or doxxing.

It’s broken because it is currently failing to protect trans people. There have been no recorded cases of a successful prosecution under section 22 to date since it was introduced in 2004. It’s limited definitions of an “official capacity” and “protected information” are inadequate, missing out the vast majority of trans people who haven’t yet been issued a Gender Recognition Certificate, and making it easy for those who disclose protected information to do so whilst skirting around committing an offence.

The section currently requires a prosecution to be brought within six months of an offence, this fails to acknowledge the delays in going through the legal processes to bring a prosecution, especially when a lack of awareness around section 22 mean authorities may not be aware it’s an offence, and it requires the trans person to know instantly that an unlawful disclosure has been made, if they don’t find out until later on, they can’t report it.

These flaws need fixing until they are, trans people’s privacy is unprotected, and in our information age, that simply isn’t acceptable. If you’ve not yet completed it, Stonewall has more information on the Government’s consultation on the Gender Recognition Act.