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Gender neutral drafting & the erasure of women in law.

Dear Mandu,

We contact you urgently re the Ministerial Maternity Bill that is currently being rushed through parliament this week.

WEP members are concerned that the bill uses gender neutral language, replacing woman, mother & female with person/people.

WEP members are also concerned that the consequences of this language has not been subject to appropriate oversight due to the hurried nature of this bill. This language sets a UK precedence in terms of legislative wording and it is inappropriate for such a drastic step away from sex-based language to be conducted in such a short time scale.

It is the responsibility of The Office of the Parliamentary Counsel and the Government Legal Office to draft clear, coherent, accessible law and to help the government to govern well, within the rule of law.

The bill must be drafted in line with the Equality Act 2010, which talks about pregnancy and maternity using the ordinary language of “woman”, “she” and “her”. It is vital that the language of both pieces of legislation is compatible, and our understanding of sex as a protected characteristic is upheld across the legislative board.

The Drafting Guidance policy to use gender neutral language was not meant to refer equally to men or women, where only one sex was meant. While gender-neutral language can be positive, this does not mean erasing all language referring to the sexes, especially in the case of maternity arrangements. Sex specific language should and must be used in the bill.

Maternity, and Paternity are also important descriptors. It is incongruent to use sex neutral language in a bill that is not sex neutral in either its application or name. After all, maternity leave is sex-based and maternity discrimination is sex based. They happen to only one sex, not to men, not according to identity, only according to sex.

The Supreme Court ruled that mother is a protected, sex-based term. Nothing to do with gender or ‘gender identity’. To quote Sir Andrew McFarlane, President of Family Court:

“being a ‘mother’ is to describe a person’s role in the biological process of conception, pregnancy and birth... It is a matter of the role taken in the biological process, rather the person’s particular sex or gender.”

This point is restated by the international NGO Plan International, language about the sexes is critical for protecting women and girls rights. Without acknowledging and referring to sex, sexism, and the nature of discrimination and vulnerabilities can not be addressed. The wording of this bill is an example of how gender neutral drafting, designed to promote equality via sexism in language is now being used to erase sex from legislative language altogether.

Anti discrimination and pro-equality legislation will not address women's needs if the language erases the reality of her sex.

Organisations such as Pregnant Then Screwed highlight the fact that current legislation is already failing to protect women from maternity discrimination. Citizens Advice report a year on year increase in cases of maternity discrimination, and as WEP themselves have documented, COVID19 work place policies have been devastating to women's equal employment rights. So future legislation must be clear and must show women the respect of naming them and their situation.

WE must have sex based language in law as it is women, and women alone, that need maternity law and the protections it offers. Not people.

It is women who face maternity discrimination and face sexist prejudices and discrimination. Not people.

It is women who are overlooked for employment and promotions because of their sex.

It is women who find themselves illegally sacked when they are pregnant.

Women, and women only.

For a full background, please read this article:


This is not a 'people issue', this is a women's issue.

Please contact your MP and copy in the ministers supporting the bill

(Copy & Paste from this list:,,,,,

Ask that the Drafting Guidance properly allows for sex specific language in areas of policy and legislation that effect women.

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