The House of Keys has agreed to modernise its procedural language, which often assigns a gender to certain roles.

On Tuesday, all but one MHK voted to support a motion from Ann Corlett (Douglas Central) that, in future, standing orders should use gender neutral descriptions, where appropriate, instead of ’he’ or ’she’.

There was also a general mood to continue that attitude into future legislation.

Mrs Corlett’s motion came one week after new standing orders were approved for the election of any future chief minister. Those rules used the term ’he’, when referring to future chief ministers.

Mrs Corlett said: ’The point is that legislation should be precise, clear and unambiguous, so it is to ensure that the meaning intended by the language used is accurately conveyed.

’It may seem like a small thing, replacing one word with another, but language does not merely reflect the way we think, it shapes our thinking.

’All I am suggesting is a common-sense approach. If there is no need to be gender specific, then we should use a neutral term.’

She accepted that updating past legislation would be ’costly and laborious’ but suggested a similar approach could be taken to new legislation and regulations.

’Making the effort to remove conscious and subconscious gender bias must surely promote diversity and inclusion,’ she said.

There was broad support for her suggestion, although some concern was expressed at elements of media coverage that had confused the issue with that of people who did not identify as male or female.

Rob Callister (Onchan) was the only MHK to vote against Mrs Corlett’s motion.

He later told the Manx Independent: ’I fully support standing orders being amended to reflect “he” or “she”, especially where the standing orders of the House of Keys only refer to “he” or “him” or “his” etc, but I personally didn’t see the need to amend the standing orders to be gender neutral at this time.’

During the debate, Policy and Reform Minister Chris Thomas said there was a gender neutral Manx word that could suffice for the role of chairman or chairwoman and he hoped to see it used in future. He did not actually say what the word was, but a quick check with Culture Vannin revealed it to be caairliagh.

Source: IoMToday