Blanket ban on trans women in Irish rugby may be unlawful

Blanket ban on trans women in Irish rugby may be unlawful

A newly-announced blanket ban on transgender women participating in Irish rugby may amount to unlawful discrimination, legal rights organisation FLAC has warned.

The Irish Rugby Football Union (IRFU) yesterday published an updated gender participation policy which states that players “are only permitted to play in the women’s category if the sex that was originally recorded at birth was female”.

It added that two registered players in Ireland are affected by this change and the IRFU “has discussed the matter directly with them including options to remain active in the game”, such as “non-contact playing formats” and “refereeing, coaching and volunteering”.

However, FLAC has now said the new policy may amount to unlawful discrimination contrary to the Equal Status Acts 2000-2018 and also raises concerns in relation to the human rights of trans participants in the activities of the IRFU, including their rights to privacy, data protection, dignity and bodily autonomy.

Sinéad Lucey, FLAC managing solicitor, said: “The IRFU is subject to the Equal Status Acts which prohibit discrimination — including differences in treatment on the basis that someone is transgender. As a result, the exclusion of individuals from the sport on the basis of the new policy may give rise to discrimination complaints under the Equal Status Acts.

“While the Equal Status Acts allows for different treatment on the basis of gender in the context of sporting events, this exception only applies where the treatment can be shown to be reasonably necessary in the context of a given event. The exception, therefore, does not appear to permit a blanket policy of this kind which, by its nature, excludes an event-specific decision in relation to the participation of a trans person.”

FLAC is a member of Trans Equality Together and supports the coalition’s call for the immediate suspension of the implementation of the policy.

Ms Lucey added: “The IRFU receives significant financial support from the State. It is imperative that the government and relevant ministers — including the minister for equality and the minister for sport — take all measures necessary to ensure that such organisations comply with equality law and ensure that the human rights and dignity of all those involved in their activities are upheld.

“In this regard, we would note the power of the minister for equality to refer serious or systemic violations of equality or human rights law to the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission in order for that body to conduct an independent inquiry.

“We urge the IRFU to immediately consult on its policy with the trans community and seek the views of IHREC as to how it might be equality proofed to better protect the rights of trans people.”

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