Making girls wear skirts as part of their school uniform is “potentially unlawful”, equality bureaucrats have said.
It may discriminate against female pupils who have gender dysphoria and believe themselves to be boys, according to a 68 page report.
Officials at the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) have released their guidance in expectation that the new Equality Bill will become law.
The Commission has far-reaching powers to enforce equality duties and support legal actions to “push the boundaries of the law”.
But the minister responsible for the Bill, Harriet Harman, distanced herself from the Commission’s claim.
When Miss Harman was asked if it was acceptable for schools to require girls to wear skirts she said: “I think that’s the case in a lot of schools in this country and I don’t think anybody has ever suggested that’s unlawful.”
The EHRC report claims that many “pupils born female with gender dysphoria experienced great discomfort being forced to wear stereotypical girls’ clothes – for example a skirt”.
The report’s claims have met with opposition from some schools.
Elspeth Insch, head teacher at King Edward VI Handsworth School in Birmingham, rejected the commission’s advice saying: “The message is: not in my school — we’re sticking with our skirts.”
However, a spokesman for the EHRC defended the report.
The spokesman said: “This is all about giving schools information which will help them interpret the law.
“It’s about schools taking a bit of time to consider their policies, how flexible they are in accommodating pupils with different needs, and what they might need to do to both help pupils get the most out of school and potentially avoid situations which might culminate in difficult and costly legal action.”
The Equality and Human Rights Commission enforces equality legislation on age, disability, sex, gender reassignment, race, religion or belief, and sexual orientation and encourages compliance with the Human Rights Act.
According to its website, “the Commission is well equipped to take legal action on behalf of individuals, especially where there are strategic opportunities to push the boundaries of the law.”
Last month it was confirmed that a 16-year-old boy is set to become the nation’s youngest sex change patient after the NHS approved his surgery.
But critics of sex change operations say that gender dysphoria is a psychiatric problem, not a physical one, and radical physical surgery does more harm than good.
In 2002 doctors from the NHS Portman Clinic – an internationally acclaimed centre – stated, “what many patients find is that they are left with a mutilated body, but the internal conflicts remain”.
Many transsexuals regret their decision to live in the opposite sex. A Home Office report on transsexualism, released in April 2000, said: “Many people revert to their biological sex after living for some time in the opposite sex”.