THE DRIVING LICENCE—IS IT ‘SEXIST’ ? The DVLA insists on printing women’s titles but not men’s on licences. Why won’t it change its baffling gender rule?
Small, rectangular, green or pink, usually found in a pocket, wallet or occasionally down the side of the sofa – a driving licence is something millions of us possess, male and female, young and old. It’s strange, then, that the DVLA should process the licences of men and women differently. This is despite the issue being raised with the agency seven years ago by Zoe O’Connell, now a Lib Dem councillor for Cambridge.
Driving licences automatically include the titles of women – mostly in the Mrs, Miss or Ms format – while men do not have their titles printed unless honorific (doctor, reverend, etc). The agency has repeatedly refused to change this practice, which appears to place importance on women’s marital status but not on men’s, and arguably contravenes section 19 of the Equalities Act 2010.
It was brought to the attention of the DVLA in 2010 in a Freedom of Information request by O’Connell. “There is no reason for any form of gender identification on official documentation,” she says. “When it comes to titles on driving licences, why should someone need to know if I’m married?” She points out that despite the need for exceptionally high security levels within their profession, the armed forces removed all gender identifiers from their military IDs about 10 years ago.
In March 2017, Emma James of Guildford wrote to the DVLA, once again querying the practice. In its response, it stated: “The DVLA does not print Mr on licences but does print Miss, Mrs, Ms or other … If you do not wish your licence to display a title, send your current licence with a covering letter requesting it be removed.”
The DVLA and the Department for Transport both refused to answer why the licences of men and women are printed differently. Instead, the DVLA simply said that anyone could choose the “No Title” option, which is seventh on a list of eight options in the online application form.
The Guardian tried to approach the DVLA for further comment on several occasions, as well as the DfT. Both refused, with the DfT saying it was entirely a matter for the DVLA, before admitting that the DVLA does indeed report to them, so ultimately the responsibility would lie with them. Still, no comment was provided. In the meantime, if you would like your title removed from your licence, you can write to DVLA, Swansea, SA99 1BN. Perhaps the additional workload will spur its bosses into joining the 21st century.