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TWO Labour councillors have called on Southend Council’s staff to adopt gender-neutral language and be banned from referencing people’s marital status without consent.
Helen McDonald and Matt Dent have submitted a motion to full council this Thursday, October 24.
The pair claim there is ‘inconsistent use of gender-neutral language’ in the council’s constitution, policies and communication.
They have called for gender-neutral language to be adopted in all communications, ‘both online and offline, written and verbal’.
Their motion asks the council to affirm that it is ‘committed to supporting woman and minority groups’.
The duo are seeking to end the use of ‘male universals’ – such as the use of the word ‘chairman’ – as well as references to people’s marital status and other ‘gendered language’, such as ‘Mr Mayor’ and ‘Madam Mayor’.
They claim this language ‘can give the impression that local government is only accessible to certain people, which could discourage women and minority groups from engaging in local politics’.
The motion states: “The use of gender-neutral language helps to avoid word choices that could be interpreted as biased, discriminatory or demeaning by implying that one sex or social gender is the norm, which helps to reduce gender stereotyping, promote social change and achieve gender equality.”
The motion asks councillors to back four resolutions.
The first is to remove ‘male universals’ from the council’s constitution, policies and all written and verbal communications, instead using neutral terms like ‘chair’.
The second is to ‘desist from making reference to a person’s marital status unless they expressly request it is used’.
The third is to use gender-neutral language where an individuals ‘sex or social gender’ are ‘not relevant or known’.
The court is to ‘communicate these changes to all departments and members of staff’.
*The motion has been submitted ahead of this week’s full council meeting.
It will be automatically referred to cabinet, which will discuss it and make a decision. If councillors are unhappy with the decision, they can call it to scrutiny.