Government Equalities Office

A reply from the Government Equalities Office

Today I received a reply to my letter to the Government Equalities Office. And here it is:

Dear Mr Broughton,

Thank you for your letter of 23 September 2014 regarding the legal recognition of asexuality.

I am sorry to hear that you have experienced prejudice because of your asexuality. However, the Government believes that an amendment of discrimination law based on attitudes to asexuality would not be appropriate.

Discrimination law is based on protection for people against discrimination because of particular characteristics (described as “protected characteristics”). These are, in the Equality Act 2010: age, disability, gender reassignment, pregnancy and maternity, marriage and civil partnership, race, religion or belief, sex and sexual orientation. These characteristics also reflect EU legislation. As you recognise, the sexual orientation characteristic is defined as a person’s sexual orientation towards persons of the same sex, the opposite sex, or either sex, which explicitly does not cover asexuality.

A strong evidence base has built up over time that people with these protected characteristics have faced serious discrimination affecting their employment prospects and access to goods and services, like housing, health services and education, leading to disadvantage for themselves and their dependants. As there is not the same level of robust evidence for discrimination on the basis of asexuality, the Government is not looking to bring forward this change in discrimination law.

That said, there are situations in which an asexual person is protected by the Equality Act — for example, the Act bans discrimination based on the perception that someone does have a protected characteristic, or because they are associated with someone who has that characteristic.

If you would like advice on your experience of discrimination, you can contact the Equality Advisory and Support Services (EASS). The EASS provide [sic] bespoke advice and in-depth support to individuals with discrimination problems and can be contacted on the following number: 0800 444 205 (or textphone 0800 444 206). Their website is at: https://www.equalityadvisoryservice.com/.

I hope this is helpful to you.

Yours sincerely,
Lucy Kennedy,
Policy Assistant, LGB&T Equality

Clearly this isn’t good news. The only hope of getting protection by law and from Government is to be discriminated against and reporting it. The paragraph about the protection we do have is of little comfort: we are only protected if people assume that we have a sexual orientation towards either sex and then discriminate against us.

Unfortunately, discrimination against asexuals can, does, and will happen. It is legal to discriminate against asexuals. And the Government are unwilling to do anything about because they do not believe it is necessary. In fact, the Equality Act is an example of discrimination against asexuals.

The political parties appear to have no appetite to outlaw such discrimination either.

So what’s next? Well, there’s the long game. Be discriminated against. Be accused of frigidity. Be sent to counsellors and therapists. Be sent to doctors for “corrective treatment”. Be sent to others for “corrective treatment”… Be hassled to get married and have children. Be told you’re not normal, that you’re a freak, that you’re not human. Then report these incidents (they are not crimes, though, remember). Then hope enough people are brave and persevering enough to report them. Then hope Government notices these incidents and debate a change.

This is not good enough.

The alternative is to campaign. Win hearts and minds. Share understanding, breed knowledge. Get people to contact their local MPs. Get people to sign a petition. Make Government notice. Make Government legally recognise asexuality and protect asexuals.

Addendum
This is the letter I sent to the GEO to which they replied.

Letter to the Government Equalities Office

You could say I’m quite determined. I want to know what policy the Conservatives have (if they have any at all) with regard to the protection of asexuals. As they suggested, I have sent another letter. Rather than the Department of Women and Equalities (which I do not believe exists) I have sent the letter to the Government Equalities Office (GEO) at the same address.

I realise that it probably is not the right place to find Tory policy; however, the GEO should have a policy of their own and, even if they haven’t, it would be interesting to know what their thoughts are with regard to this issue. So this is the letter I sent.

To whom it may concern,

I am writing to you with regard to the recognition of asexuality as a sexual orientation within the protective laws of the United Kingdom. As an asexual person, I am concerned that the policy of the Government Equalities Office (GEO) that aim to promote and protect the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people do not appear to extend to asexual people.

I have been in contact with my local Member of Parliament, The Rt. Hon. Mr Ronnie Campbell MP for Blyth Valley. His response to my letter, with confirmation from the House of Commons Library, establishes that asexuals are not included in the definition for a sexual orientation in the Equality Act 2010 (EA 2010), Section 12. Therefore, the laws that protect individuals on the basis of sexual orientation do not apply to asexual people.

It is my concern that, as more individuals recognise asexuality in themselves and others, discrimination and hate crime towards asexuals will become more frequent. As someone that has endured prejudice of this nature, I find it intolerable that EA 2010 does not offer the same protection as it does to other sexual orientations. An oft-heard refrain from such-prejudiced individuals is that asexuals are weird and not human-like; that EA 2010 excludes protection for asexuals only supports their prejudice.

I am proud of and commend the continuing ethos in which EA 2010 was written and Government Equalities Office (GEO) operates; however I have read the GEO’s Policy webpages and found no indication of any intention to make the necessary amendments to EA 2010. Indeed, asexuality is not mentioned at all.

As a community, asexuals do not wish for this discrimination to become prevalent and, given its purpose, I am sure that the GEO does not wish to advocate discrimination against asexual persons either.

I am writing, therefore, to establish the policy of the Government Equalities Office to ensure that asexual people are protected by law from discrimination.

I have also been directed by the Office of the Party Chairmen of the Conservative Party to write to you directly to establish the policy of the Conservative Party with regard to the same issue.

I eagerly await your reply for my own and others’ reassurance and I thank you in advance for taking the time to respond to my letter.

Yours faithfully,
Stephen Broughton.