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Sex Discrimination

Types of sex discrimination
Sex discrimination can be statutory or non-statutory, and direct or indirect.


Statutory sex discrimination arises where one sex is specifically treated by law differently from the other. For instance, in protective legislation where women are barred from working manually in mines. However, it still also applies in other areas, such as child benefit provisions, where the main title is to the mother (unless she waives it in writing) and there is no provision to apportion the benefit when separated parents both care for the children. This is a direct discrimination.


Non-statutory sex discrimination arises where the law is sex neutral but the sexes are treated differently for particular reasons, for instance as a result of political or priority considerations, this resulting in one sex being treated less favourably than the other, regardless of equality considerations.


Both direct and indirect forms can occur in both statutory and non-statutory measures. Unequal state pension ages for men and women, and the associated basket of social security benefits which are pension age-related, is a statutory direct form. Family law provisions and benefits which are gender neutral in terminology, but are likely to affect many more fathers less favourably than mothers, are a form of statutory indirect sex discrimination. For instance, when determining child support payments by the non-resident parent (usually the father), the income of the resident parent (usually the mother) is not taken into account at all.


Non-statutory forms of sex discrimination include women-only sessions in public amenities, eg. swimming pools (which the EOC had believed were unlawful, unless there was evidence of ‘severe embarrassment’ to justify them, or comparable single - sex facilities were also available to men, but never legally challenged the practice


Statutory sex discrimination
Other than protective legislation for women, most statutory sex discrimination is against men.  Examples include:


  • State pension and retirement ages - which have been unequal for men and women since 1941, and will not be fully equalised at 65 until October 2018
  • Pension age-related social security benefits - the present inequality will continue similarly until October 2018
  • Liability to national insurance contributions - the present inequality for employed people over state pension age (women are exempt from their present lower state pension age) will continue until October 2018
  • Lump sum payments for deferred state pension - the present inequality (women start to qualify from their present lower state pension age, men from age 65) will continue until year 2018
  • Widowers benefits - men widowed before April 2001 have no claim to any social security survivors benefits before that date
  • Child benefit - wife or mother has priority of title over husband or father: there is also no mechanism for apportioning the benefit when both parents share care of the child(ren) after parental separation (as now happens in Sweden)
  • Guardians allowance - wife has priority of title over husband.
  • Unmarried fathers - subordinate to mothers in obtaining parental responsibility and registration of their name on their childs birth certificate.
  • Abortion - father has no legal right in respect of a mothers decision
  • Paternity tests - it is a criminal offence for a father to take a sample of a childs DNA without the mothers prior consent. In contrast, it is not a crime for a woman to lie about who is the father of the child
  • Imposition of all-women shortlists for parliamentary and other representative elections. The EA 2010 extended the period in which all-women shortlists may be used until 2030.
  • Lifelong anonymity for alleged victims of sexual offences (usually female) but none for a defendant (usually male), nor his or her family, even if found innocent.


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