Redefinition of ‘sex’ in Title IX will foster more violence and discrimination against women and girls, says UN expert: United States


GENEVA (29 April 2024) – A UN expert today expressed concern about the release of final implementing regulations for Title IX of the Education Amendments Act of 1972, a federal law prohibiting discrimination on the basis of sex in education programmes or activities that receive federal financial funding.

The independent expert noted that the regulation, which will take effect on 1 August 2024, redefines “sex” to also include gender identity.

“The erroneous redefinition of “sex” through these implementing regulations constitutes a grave setback that will increase the vulnerability of the majority of women and girls to incursions into their privacy, including voyeurism, sexual harassment and physical and sexual attacks, by effectively removing single sex spaces,” said Reem Alsalem, the UN Special Rapporteur on violence against women and girls.

Alsalem said the new regulations run contrary to the United States’ obligations under international human rights law to prohibit and prevent discrimination based on sex, which in its common meaning can only be taken to mean “biological sex.”

She said the regulations could also deviate from other international human rights obligations that the United States has towards safeguarding the rights of female students to privacy and their right to the highest standards of mental and physical health.

Title IX was enacted as part of the Education Amendments Act of 1972 with the goal of eradicating sex discrimination against women and girls in education and to ensure they could enjoy the same educational opportunities as men and boys, especially in higher education.

In December of last year, the Special Rapporteur addressed a communication to the Government of the United States, in which she raised concerns about the proposed amendments to Title IX of the Education Amendments Act of 1972. The Special Rapporteur warned that changes to Title IX would result in “unfair treatment and unlawful and extreme forms of discrimination against most women and girls on the basis of female sex” and “undermine the access of women and girls in sports to equal opportunity as well as undermine their overall participation in society and public life”.

“The Title IX rule changes released by the U.S. Department of Education is a significant rollback of the promise of Title IX and explicitly fails women and girls,” Alsalem said. “It is my hope that the U.S. Government will act swiftly to reverse course. My mandate stands ready to provide support and advice in this regard,” she said.

Reem Alsalem was appointed Special Rapporteur on violence against women and girls, its causes and consequences by the UN Human Rights Council in July 2021, to recommend measures, ways and means, at the national, regional and international levels, to eliminate violence against women and its causes, and to remedy its consequences. She is an independent consultant on gender issues, the rights of refugees and migrants, transitional justice and humanitarian response. She holds a master’s in International Relations from the American University in Cairo, Egypt (2001) and a master’s in Human Rights Law from the University of Oxford, United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland (2003).

The Special Rapporteurs are part of what is known as the Special Procedures of the Human Rights Council. Special Procedures, the largest body of independent experts in the UN Human Rights system, is the general name of the Council’s independent fact-finding and monitoring mechanisms that address either specific country situations or thematic issues in all parts of the world. Special Procedures’ experts work on a voluntary basis; they are not UN staff and do not receive a salary for their work. They are independent from any government or organization and serve in their individual capacity.

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