There are points for and against gender-neutral language (the simplest example in English is singular "they"). The Canadian government advocates its usage.

Have any other government advocated for gender-neutral language or at least made attempts to make gender neutral language applicable in the country?

If necessary, languages with grammatical gender may be considered.

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    I would assume most governments have no opinion about English. Exactly what constitutes "gender neutral language" varies considerably from language to language. – Denis Nardin Aug 21 '20 at 5:09
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    I'm intrigued. I haven't lived in Canada for nearly 30 years, but anything the federal government does is generally done in two languages (French and English). I followed your link, but, as expected, the text is in English only (mixing languages is frowned upon in Canada - for example, you never see a bilingual business card). Is there a similar policy in French? Gender neutrality would be much harder in French. Whoa! I clicked the "Français" link on that page. The French version is in English (justice.gc.ca/fra/pr-rp/sjc-csj/redact-legis/legistics/…) – Flydog57 Aug 22 '20 at 2:24
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    @Flydog57 May I know what are the problems in French? Is it regarding the pronouns (they instead of he/she) or regarding words like spokesperson (instead of spokesman), chairperson (instead of chairman)? – user32657 Aug 22 '20 at 3:13
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    @Statsanalyst A cursory Google search reveals Hanover, at least, as an example of a German-speaking municipal government which has done this. – probably_someone Aug 22 '20 at 3:20
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    @Flydog57: About the "missing" French version of the page: There is a comment (in French) at the top of the page explaining that the Legistics section is exclusively about writing legal text in the English language and that, by his very nature, the section is thus available in English only. – Éric Malenfant Aug 23 '20 at 2:18

This has been the policy of the UK Government with respect to legislation drafting for over a decade. On March 8th 2007, then Leader of the House of Commons Jack Straw issued a written ministerial statement on gender neutral drafting:

For many years the drafting of primary legislation has relied on section 6 of the Interpretation Act 1978, under which words referring to the masculine gender include the feminine. In practice this means that male pronouns are used on their own in contexts where a reference to women and men is intended, and also that words such as chairman are used for offices capable of being held by either gender. Many believe that this practice tends to reinforce historic gender stereotypes and presents an obstacle to clearer understanding for those unfamiliar with the convention.

I have worked with colleagues in Government to secure agreement, that it would be right, where practicable, to avoid this practice in future and, accordingly, Parliamentary Counsel has been asked to adopt gender-neutral drafting.

From the beginning of next Session, Government Bills will take a form which achieves gender-neutral drafting so far as it is practicable, at no more than a reasonable cost to brevity or intelligibility. This policy already applies to tax law rewrite Bills and is consistent with the practice in many other jurisdictions in the English-speaking world.

Interestingly, according to the Civil Service, this was also common up until midway through the 19th Century:

That changed in 1850, when Parliament passed an Act “for shortening the Language used in Acts of Parliament”. The Act said that masculine words in legislation are “deemed and taken to include females”. It enabled those writing legislation to use masculine pronouns (he/him) to refer to people whatever their gender.

By 1851 an attempt was made to repeal the 1850 Act, partly because of fears that it might be applied to legislation relating to the franchise and give women the right to vote. The then Attorney General rejected that suggestion as “really a most unaccountable supposition” (a view confirmed by the courts in 1868).

Although the requirement that legislation be gender neutral has not been codified in law, and despite the Interpretation Act 1978 including the following provision:

In any Act, unless the contrary intention appears,—

  • (a) words importing the masculine gender include the feminine;
  • (b) words importing the feminine gender include the masculine;

This hasn't stopped laws being drafted to be gender neutral as a matter of course - in 2020, the Office of the Parliamentary Counsel published a Guide to Gender-Neutral Drafting, apparently based off their own, internal guidance from 2010.


Yes, Wales comes to mind.

From section 3.1(b) of the Welsh government guide "Writing Laws for Wales":

techniques for drafting legislation in gender-neutral terms

Which then goes on in various sections to describe how to do so in both English and Welsh.

Additionally, Wales positions itself as:

a country with a strong tradition of inclusivity and respect for diversity

as described in its annual report on the state of equality.

  • Just out of curiosity, does Welsh have pronouns equivalent to he, she, and they? – wjandrea Aug 22 '20 at 2:08
  • I think I found the answer in the guide: "In Welsh, nouns have grammatical gender, and pronouns follow the grammatical gender of the nouns to which they correspond. The grammatical gender of a noun or pronoun does not necessarily imply anything about the gender of a person." – wjandrea Aug 22 '20 at 2:24
  • @wjandrea Yes: «In Welsh, the third person singular personal pronouns are ef, (f)e, (f)o "he, it" and hi "she, it".» – bishop Aug 22 '20 at 3:43
  • So there's no equivalent to singular "they"? That's what I was most interested in. But based on the snippet I posted above, that wouldn't really make sense in Welsh, would it? – wjandrea Aug 22 '20 at 4:13
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    A better alternative to CDJB's answer would give all of the several places outwith the U.K., including Australia (not just the federal government but States/Territories such as Victoria and NSW too), South Africa, and the EU. – JdeBP Aug 22 '20 at 5:54

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