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on a single-sex basis.  This might mean providing services to one sex only, providing a similar service separately to each sex or providing a service in different ways to women and men.  This could be an appropriate and sometimes even a necessary way of complying with the gender equality duty if evidence shows that single-sex approaches are needed to allow both women and men to access public services equally or in order to deliver equality of outcomes.  The most common examples of this in practice are rape crisis centres or refuges for women who are victims of domestic violence.  Public authorities might also wish to consider providing single-sex family support or health services, under certain circumstances.  Public authorities must satisfy themselves, however, that any approach to single-sex activities complies with the SDA.  

The Asha Centre in Worcester has designed services to meet the specific needs of women offenders and to prevent re-offending.  The Centre provides a community-based approach to women's offending. It is a multi-disciplinary, multi-agency community resource centre that helps women who are isolated from resources to achieve their potential in a safe, women-only environment with on-site childcare and help with transport if necessary.  The Centre originated as a project within the probation service but, for resource reasons, is now run by the voluntary sector.  Around 35% of women using the Centre are offenders on community rehabilitation orders, many of whom have mental health problems.  The women can access counselling for rape and abuse, undertake group work led by probation officers, participate in workshops and education and attend appointments with their probation officer at the Centre.  It costs £2000-£3000 a year per female offender to provide these services, whereas imprisoning them costs £37,500 per head.


The circumstances in which single-sex provision is lawful vary depending on whether the activity in question is classed as education, as goods, facilities and services, or as a public function.  Each type of activity is dealt with under a separate part of the SDA, and has different provisions, and different circumstances under which a single-sex approach is lawful.  Public authorities will therefore need to take particular care to determine whether any proposed single-sex approach is lawful.  More detail on this issue is contained in Chapter 6 and Appendix F.  

Meeting the gender equality duty in public functions

S21A SDA (margin note)


The duty to have due regard to the need to eliminate unlawful discrimination and harassment and promote equality of opportunity between men and women applies when public authorities are carrying out public functions.


The following are examples of public functions to which the duty applies:

formulating or carrying out public policy (for example, devising policies and priorities in health, education and transport or making decisions on the allocation of public money)

exercising regulatory or law enforcement powers (for example: police powers relating to stop and search, arrests and detection of suspects; the regulatory and law enforcement powers of bodies such as Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs; local authority licensing functions; tax inspection and collection; trading standards activities)

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