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Gender-neutral legislation

 

The 14 July States Meeting was huge – abortion, education, Deputy Chris Le Tissier…

But tucked away in ‘Legislation for Approval’ was an interesting little ordinance that highlights just how much times have moved on – and yet they haven’t.

It’s called The Health and Safety at Work (Equality Provisions) 2021 Ordinance and, among other things, it updates The Quarries Safety Ordinance, 1954 to remove the terms ‘male’ and ‘competent male’.

Back in 1954 only ‘a male over the age of 18’ was allowed, by law, to be a machinery attendant and only a ‘competent male’ could oversee the lifting and transportation process, fire a shot (explosive) or inspect the workplace.

The Committee for Employment and Social Security wanted to make those responsibilities gender-neutral by removing all references to ‘male’ and ‘competent male’ in the old legislation, hence the ordinance. Hurrah!

However…. the ordinance left in place the many uses in the old legislation of ‘he’ and ‘him’. The quarry owner will still be referred to in law as ‘him’, as will the inspector and employees at the quarry.

 

When equality isn’t equality

Why would any 2021 update to legislation not be fully gender-neutral? Because, since 2012, it has been the practice of Guernsey’s Law Officers to use gender-neutral language in new Projets de Loi (major legislation requiring the approval of the Queen) only. Updates to old legislation are not regarded as an opportunity to make those laws completely gender-neutral because of the additional drafting time required.

So even though this was an ordinance with ‘equality’ in the title, put forward by the Committee responsible for Guernsey’s proposed anti-discrimination ordinance, the references to ‘he’ and ‘him’ in health and safety at work legislation will remain.

Dawn’s campaign for gender-neutral drafting in Guernsey

Our Law Officers aren’t always great at sticking to their own rules. In July 2020, Deputy Dawn Tindall had to place a series of amendments, seconded by Deputy Chris Green, to have a package of financial Projets de Loi sent back to be made gender-neutral. You can read the details in this Guernsey Press article and follow the debate in Hansard for 15 July 2020 (starting on page 37).

Two days later Deputies Tindall and Green went on to successfully amend the Discrimination Ordinance proposals, adding a proposition instructing P&R to submit a policy to the States covering gender-neutral drafting in all new documentation including legislation. Plus, when updating any type of document, gender neutral language should be used and offensive terms to describe disability or any other protected ground should be replaced. This amendment was important as neither the States’ policy or the Law Officers’ practice on gender-neutral drafting has ever been written down. To read more, see Hansard, Friday 17 July 2020, starting on page 14.

Gender-neutral drafting in the UK

Guernsey’s move to gender-neutral drafting in 2012 was prompted by changes in the UK five years earlier. On International Women’s Day in 2007, Jack Straw MP, as Leader of the Commons, used a Ministerial Statement to announce that the Government had asked Parliamentary Counsel to stop, wherever practical, the convention that ‘the masculine gender includes the feminine’ as ‘many believe that this practice tends to reinforce historic gender stereotypes’.

Interestingly, gender-neutral drafting was common in the UK until 1850, when Parliament passed an Act ‘for shortening the Language used in Acts of Parliament’. The Act said that masculine words in legislation were ‘deemed and taken to include females’.

Note that gender-neutral drafting does not mean adding ‘she’ and ‘her’.  It’s actually the reverse – it means taking out ALL gender-specific pronouns and using terms like ‘the person’ instead so that the text is completely neutral.

More information

Simple guide to gender-neutral drafting

A UK Civil Service view on gender-neutral drafting.

A private practice view on gender-neutral drafting.

Deputy calls for gender-neutral legislation to be introduced locally‘ – Guernsey Press 3 August 2021

Other examples

 

 

miriam-makeba-SA

Miriam Makeba - South Africa

Nominated by: Christine James

Zenzile Miriam Makeba (1932 to 2008), nicknamed Mama Africa, was a South African singer, songwriter, actress, United Nations goodwill ambassador, and civil rights activist. Associated with musical genres including Afropop, jazz, and world music, she was an advocate against apartheid and white-minority government in South Africa. In 2020 she was named one of Time magazine’s 100 women of the century. 

South Africa is ranked 12th in the world for percentage of women in national parliament: 45.8% (source: data.ipu.org) 

Are you from South Africa? Please email hello@womeninpubliclife.gg if there is a social or cultural group for people from South Africa in Guernsey.

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The original image “The Hague Jazz 2008 – Miriam Makeba” by Haags Uitburo is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0. 

jacinda-adern-2

Jacinda Ardern - New Zealand

Nominated by: Martin Lock

Jacinda Ardern (born 1980) has served as prime minister of New Zealand and leader of the Labour Party since 2017. In 2019, she led the country through the aftermath of the Christchurch mosque shootings, rapidly introducing strict gun laws in response, and throughout 2020 she directed the country’s widely praised response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Ardern was the world’s second elected head of government to give birth in office when her daughter was born in 2018. ‘An inspiring Prime Minister who brought a nation together with true leadership, empathy and compassion.’

New Zealand is ranked 4th in the world for percentage of women in national parliament: 48.3% (source: data.ipu.org) 

Other iconic women: Dame Whina Cooper, nominated by Claire Fisher, and Kate Sheppard, nominated by Anna Cooper.

Are you from New Zealand? You may be interested in joining the ANZACs in Guernsey Facebook group

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