Deputy calls for gender -neutral legislation to be introduced locally

THERE are new calls for gender-neutral legislation to be introduced in Guernsey.

Deputy Tina Bury. (Picture By Sophie Rabey, 29830677)
Deputy Tina Bury. (Picture By Sophie Rabey, 29830677)

Deputy Tina Bury said she was surprised that the language of even new laws written locally were still shaped by a time when women and men did not have the same rights.

‘I’ve never read as many laws as I do now and with most of them referring solely to “he” it quite frankly feels like they don’t apply to me, or that I’m not recognised in the eyes of the law or by the government as an equal citizen.

‘As we strive to move towards a more equal society, on all grounds, removing this sort of language that reinforces gender stereotypes is important to demonstrate that we mean what we say when it comes to matters of equality.’

The issue came up at last month’s States meeting during a debate on updating local health and safety legislation.

Several changes were made, for instance the Assembly agreed that women should in future be allowed to work at night in an industrial business, employment that by law was previously only permissible to men.

However, it was noted in the debate that while the blatant sexism was being taken out of the legislation, the drafting still referred to ‘he’ and ‘him’.

Last year the previous States instructed Policy & Resources to submit a policy for States approval so gender-neutral language is used when legislation or long-term policy documents are updated.

Legal traditionalists have countered in the past that introducing feminine pronouns can complicate laws, but Deputy Bury disagreed.

She called for a common sense approach, and she said it did not require a policy, it could just be done.

‘Deputy Heidi Soulsby seemed to indicate in debate that she thought it could be done without a policy letter and I agree with her, in light of the fact it was agreed by the States last term perhaps in the spirit of “action this day” a direction could simply be given to the law officers to begin this as standard practice.’

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