Women Uniting media statement: Are women not extraordinary?

Women Uniting media statement: Are women not extraordinary?

Are media outlets continuing to ignore women led organisations in favour of those led by men?

Last Friday (19th June), several news outlets, including the BBC and the Independent, gave prominent coverage to the formation of a cross party political group, representing a number of political LGBT+ groups, calling it ‘an extraordinary move’. Members of the group said, “This is unique”

The group had responded to reports that the Minister for Women and Equalities was going to publish her long awaited response to the consultation on reform of the Gender Recognition Act.

We were surprised that the media found this such a significant story, and that the group is claiming this action is ‘unique’. Indeed we are baffled as to why it received such a lot of coverage, because cross party groups of WOMEN working together on this issue have been studiously ignored.

The fact that we have been doing so for some time is apparently not considered ‘extraordinary’.

Inspired by ForWomenScotland, who have been working together cross party since mid 2018, Women Uniting UK was formed in late 2019, initially as a cross party coalition of women from six major UK political parties.

We published a joint petition on International Women’s Day, the 8th March this year, now signed by over 4,000 people with new signatures added every day. Thousands more signed the individual political party pledges and petitions. We sent out a press release announcing this to dozens of media outlets and journalists, including a large number at the BBC. It was ignored.

In April, our political alliance was joined by non-party-politically aligned women’s groups, including Fair Play for Women, FiLiA, and the Women’s Human Rights Campaign, to send a joint open letter to the Minister for Women and Equalities, the Rt.Hon Elizabeth Truss

Again, we tried to get media interest and again we were ignored. Since we shared that letter, more groups have joined us, including Authentic Equity Alliance, For Women Scotland, LGB Alliance, and Transgender Trend among others. We stand by everything we said in our petition, and in our joint letter.

We support Liz Truss in saying NO to Self ID and YES to clear and unambiguous guidance on the rights of women and girls to single SEX spaces. This removes rights from no-one.

We stand united in our defence of the rights of every human being to define themselves as they wish. But we will not allow the rights of women and children to single sex spaces to be removed. Those spaces and services provide safety, dignity, comfort and privacy.

We will not stand by as the power to name ourselves, to count ourselves, to represent ourselves, is removed. The word woman is taken.

ENDS

Editors’ Notes

Many of the groups mentioned in this letter have written their own open letters, and letters to Liz Truss; their own MPs or MSPs; other political representatives; the Women & Equalities Committee; and the Prime Minister on behalf of their groups and as individuals. (We are happy to provide contact details for these groups should you wish to talk to them about their particular views.)

Joint Political Petition signatories, Women Uniting UK:  Conservative Women’s Pledge; Green Feminists Women and Girls Declaration; Labour Women’s Declaration; Liberal Democrats Grassroots Challenge to Policy on Women; SNP Women’s Pledge; and Women’s Equality Party for Protection of Sex Based Rights

Signatories to the letter of 23rd April 2020:  Women Uniting UK; Conservative Women’s Pledge; Green Feminists Women and Girls Declaration; Labour Women’s Declaration; Liberal Democrats Grassroots Challenge to Policy on Women; SNP Women’s Pledge; Women’s Equality Party for Protection of Sex Based Rights; Fair Play for Women; FiLiA; and WHRC

New signatories to 23 Apr letter: Authentic Equity Alliance; For Women Scotland; LGB Alliance; and Transgender Trend.


Media statement contact details:

Follow @WomenUnitingUK 

Press enquiries to: womenunitinguk@gmail.com

Govt commitment to women’s sex-based rights welcomed

Government commitment to women’s sex-based rights welcomed

Labour women say Government move supports proposal in Labour Manifesto – and urge Labour leadership to listen to women before responding. Full statement below…

The Labour Women’s Declaration Working Group, on behalf of our nearly-5,000 signatories, welcomes the trailed forthcoming announcement of the Conservative government to abandon plans for new gender recognition legislation (as reported in the Sunday Times 14th June 2020). The proposed changes to the Gender Recognition Act (GRA) would have enabled people to change their legal sex without any of the current safeguarding, such as diagnosis of ‘gender dysphoria’ and two years of living in their preferred rôle.

In parallel, the provisions of the Equality Act 2010 will be strengthened to ensure single-sex spaces in such contexts as domestic abuse refuges and NHS wards, and with national guidance on lavatory provision, which is expected to mean that the ‘free-for-all’ with local councils and venues creating ‘gender neutral’ lavatories will cease. The Labour manifesto for the December 2019 election stated an intention to ensure that the single-sex provisions of the Equality Act were understood and enforced in appropriate services, and this intention from the Tories would appear to go some way towards that.

We are, of course, aware that there are serious splits in the Labour Party concerning the provisions of the Gender Recognition Act, and that many MPs (including in the shadow cabinet) and councillors have signed pledges committing to enabling ‘self-identification’ as a woman (or man) and even expelling from the Party those who are seriously concerned about the erosion of women’s rights inherent in such a move. However, thousands of members, including MSPs and councillors, have signed our Declaration supporting sex-based rights and free speech. We hope that Labour Party members at all levels will now recognise the importance of protecting women’s rights in the way that it appears the Conservative Party are intending – which in large part borrows from our own manifesto.

We urge Keir Starmer to engage with the proposals and give the details his full consideration. Women’s movements on the left across Europe are gathering pace in their defence of sex-based rights. Now that the Conservative party are backtracking from their former position, he should consult with us (as we have repeatedly requested) and hear our concerns about the specific points that we might want to challenge about the Conservative approach.

We also welcome the intention to outlaw gay conversion therapy – which is already forbidden in the regulations governing many of those who provide psychological support. We are concerned however that the Counsellors and Psychotherapists (Regulation) and Conversion Therapy Bill 2017-19, introduced by Conservative MP Geraint Davies and which was abandoned when it failed to clear all readings before the 2019 General Election, could be brought back. This specifically includes ‘gender identity’ in its wording, and inclusion of this in the clauses of any new Bill might make it much harder for good psychological support to be provided to those considering ‘transition’.

One of the issues that will arise from the decision to abandon changes to the GRA and strengthen the single-sex provisions of the Equality Act 2010 is the fact that the Scottish government has been going along a rather different route and has recently introduced self-identity within an Act concerning balanced representation of men and women on public boards. The Scottish government’s approach continues to be of profound concern for women in Scotland. Scottish GRA reform is pending, with analysis of the Scottish Government’s 2020 consultation put on hold during the current crisis. Hate crime legislation is also being considered, and is a matter of considerable unease given the breadth of interpretation which might be used.

After such a long wait since the closure of the consultation period on changes to the Gender Recognition Act, it is with great relief that we welcome the decision of the Westminster government to strengthen single-sex provision and ensure proper safeguards on legally-recognised changes to an individual’s status – safeguards which help to provide effective support to those undertaking transition.

We also welcome the response from David Lammy MP on the Andrew Marr television programme today that ‘Labour will have to look carefully at any legislation that is brought forward’ and from Scottish Labour in its manifesto that it will ‘listen carefully to the submissions and debate as the legislation progresses.’

Labour’s engagement in listening to women during this process is of vital importance, and we look forward to contributing.

We stand with J K Rowling

We stand with J K Rowling

It has been difficult to persuade some people, including the Labour Party leadership, to listen to concerns about women’s sex-based issues. The nearly 5,000 signatories of the Labour Women’s Declaration, the women’s pledge signatories of other political parties, and people in many other group and individual contexts, have been patiently working to explain why biological sex matters, and to ensure that women are able to speak about our experiences as a sex, not a ‘gender identity’. We have been ignored, silenced, blocked on Twitter, abused online and in real life. We have not given up.

Then J K Rowling (pictured left), one of the most famous people in the world, began to make clear her support for what we have been saying, culminating in a post on her website published on 10 June 2020. She, too, has experienced an avalanche of abuse, being accused of hatred and treated to misogynistic slurs for merely wishing to promote the safety and dignity of girls and women.

We applaud J K Rowling for so clearly outlining the importance of retaining the legal definition of sex; for her concern for children, especially girls, who find in the idea of transition a way out of discomfort with their bodies or their failure to conform to stereotypes (illusory as that ‘solution’ is); her recognition of the potential impact of transgender ideology on women prisoners and on those who have experienced domestic and sexual abuse; her support for lesbians who are, of course, same-sex not same-‘gender’ attracted (despite attempts by Stonewall and others to redefine homosexuality) ; her recognition of the need to consider sex in many medical conditions. Above all, she champions the right of women to speak about our own material experience as a sex.

In her piece, Rowling mentions the changes being wrought to the definition of ‘woman’ in Scottish legislation. Essentially, the Scottish Government has recently published statutory guidance on the Gender Representation on Public Boards (Scotland) Act 2018. The guidance outlines various ways in which someone can be a woman for the purposes of the Act, including always using female pronouns, or using female names on documents such as utility bills; but then states that no-one can ask for the evidence that the individual fulfils the requirements. Hence, anyone who ‘identifies’ as a woman is now eligible to count towards the intention that women should represent half the members of public boards by the end of 2022. This is despite the vast majority of responses to the Government’s consultation objecting to the proposed re-definition of ‘woman’. It is unsurprising that J K Rowling, along with many of the rest of us, is alarmed by such legal changes.

It is horrifying that so many people in the public eye, both men and women, have responded to her article with abusive messages, with demands that she retract, with extraordinary claims that she has somehow ruined their childhoods, with accusations of her being ill-informed. We are saddened that some of those making such comments are strongly identified with the Labour Party, and are echoing the deeply concerning demands of some Labour members that those supporting organisations that promote women’s interests should be expelled from the Party.

We stand with J K Rowling and hope that Keir Starmer, to whom we have written twice requesting an opportunity to brief him without response, Marsha de Cordova (Shadow Women and Equalities, from whom we have also had no response to our request for a meeting) and others in the shadow cabinet will now recognise that we represent a view that needs to be heard and understood. In the light of all the publicity, across all media, that has ensued from the publication of Rowling’s article, Labour can scarcely dismiss our views as those of some annoying fringe.

We look forward to more signatories on our Declaration and to an invitation from the Labour leadership to discuss the issues we and J K Rowling have laid out.

Thank you, J K Rowling, for ensuring that these key issues cannot be ignored.

Our letters to Keir Starmer

Our letters to Keir Starmer

Back in April we wrote to new Labour Party leader Sir Keir Starmer to raise the issue of women’s sex-based rights and offer him a briefing on the subject. To date, we’ve received no response. This is our follow up letter – sent to him by email on 9th June. (As you can see it’s a briefing in itself!).

Dear Keir,

Women’s Sex-Based Rights

We write on behalf of our 300 founders and 4,447 signatories to our Declaration. (We also invite you to read some of the 452 comments made by signatories to the Declaration which will give you a flavour of the strength of feeling amongst members and supporters on this subject.) We are all Labour supporters, most of us are Party members, many are elected officers, councillors and three are elected MSPs. Several are active members of your own CLP. Our concern is the Party’s approach to ‘gender identity’ and women’s sex-based rights. We wish to raise a number of issues with you to which we request and expect a response.

No response to our offer of a briefing

We wrote to you on 23rd April and invited you to meet us online, along with MSP Johann Lamont, to which we have not received a response other than an automated email stating: “If you are emailing me in my role as Leader of the Opposition, your message has been successfully received and we will do our very best to respond.”

The content of our previous message is appended to this letter.

Without a proper briefing of the Party Leadership about our concerns, we fear that the Party stands very little chance of moving forward on this issue. It will continue to make unnecessary mistakes such as refusing membership to leading feminist campaigners like Karen Ingala Smith, whose ‘Counting Dead Women’ list is read out each year in Parliament by Jess Phillips MP. Karen’s party membership was rejected on the grounds of “hostility to gender identity,” despite the fact that gender identity cannot be defined, and has no basis in law.

We are very disappointed not to have received a reply, particularly given the claim that:

“Labour is the party of equality, committed to achieving a world free from all forms of bigotry and discrimination… Whether campaigning on the streets or passing legislation in government, Labour is the only party to consistently stand with women… Labour will put women at the heart of our government and programme.”

We have consequently decided to make this follow up message an ‘Open Letter’.

We hope of course that David Evans, the new General Secretary of the Party, will take note of what we have to say about the Labour Party Rule Book. And that Marsha de Cordova, Shadow Minister for Women and Equalities, will work to apply Party policy in relation to women’s sex-based rights.

Although the Labour Party Manifesto 2019 stated a commitment to “ensure that the single-sex-based exemptions contained in the Equality Act 2010 are understood and fully enforced in service provision”, it remains virtually impossible to discuss that commitment to women within the Party. Those of us who attempt to do so are routinely abused, smeared and silenced. The demands of various groups of transactivists for expulsion of members who support the manifesto commitment were supported by most of the candidates for leadership and deputy leadership (including Angela Rayner). We noted that you and Richard Burgon signed the marginally less incendiary trans pledge. However, the fact that you have neither signed our Declaration, which is entirely in line with the 2019 manifesto (and adheres to the Labour Party Rule Book and Codes of Conduct), nor given our many supporters the benefit of a reply to any of our emails and approaches, is very concerning.

Challenges to the pervasive “policy capture”

Policy capture is widespread in public and private bodies across the UK and extends into the Government Equality Office (GEO) and the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC), which means that guidance regarding protected characteristics and reference to the single sex exemptions in Equality Act 2010 is often inaccurate.

This paper (The 2010 Equality Act Is Being Undermined by Official Guidance) by Ann Sinnott, Director of Authentic Equity Alliance clearly sets out the conflict between official guidance and women’s sex based rights:

“One of the most contentious social conflicts today is that between women’s rights campaigners – who protest that women-only spaces, in both public and private organisations, are being eroded to the detriment of women and girls – and transgender rights campaigners, who dismiss such claims as bigoted nonsense and assert that transwomen are women and entitled to access women-only spaces. Scarcely a day goes by without media coverage of this issue and a ferocious war rages on social media.”

The paper goes on to describe how this misinformation regarding the Equality Act 2010 came about due to pressure and training from Stonewall: “…for the last six years people have been incorrectly told that transwomen with a Gender Recognition Certificate have an automatic right to enter and use women-only spaces.”

The Government Equality Office recently removed its endorsement from schools guidance produced by EqualiTeach, tweeting on 1st May 2020 “the LGBT guidance for primary schools published by EqualiTeach does not reflect government policy. GEO had no input into the document. The GEO logo has been removed.”

Judicial review claim being prepared against CPS

Lawyers acting in a Pre-Action Protocol Letter for Judicial Review on 3rd April 2020 (to which the CPS responded by withdrawing their LGBT Bullying and Hate crime Guidance for review) said:

“The CPS in discharge of their s149 EA duty should have addressed how the Guidance they have issued would impact children with other protected characteristics. Of obvious and immediate relevance are those children with the protected characteristics of sex (especially girls), sexual orientation and religion and belief…

“It is not clear that the CPS has consulted children and groups with other protected characteristics to see how the Guidance might impact them. The result is a document that advocates for a school environment where gender self-identification is law and trumps all other protected characteristics. This is misleading and unlawful.”

This action challenging the CPS regarding its LGBT Bullying and Hate Crime Guidance is still on going in that the CPS, which has said it will review its guidance, is now being challenged to withdraw as a Stonewall ‘Diversity Champion’.

Toolkits and Guidance for Schools

More and more local authorities are withdrawing the ‘Trans Inclusion Toolkit for Schools 2019’ which is based on legally incorrect advice provided by Mermaids and Stonewall, and does not safeguard children.

Labour Councils in Barnsley and Doncaster, and Conservative led councils in Essex, Kent, Leicestershire, Shropshire, Somerset and Warwickshire, as well as Denbighshire and Oxfordshire (both NOC, Conservative – led) have withdrawn the incorrect guidance.

‘Sex’ Category in the Census

Alice Sullivan, Director of the 1970 British Cohort Study, UCL Professor of Sociology and member of your local CLP, is a leading authority on the need to retain the category of sex in data collection including the Census. She was one of the 72 social scientist signatories of this Letter to the UK Census Authorities and the Scottish Government, which includes the statement: “As experts in social statistics and users of population level data, we call on the UK’s census authorities to retain the integrity of the category of sex, and not to conflate this with gender identity.”

We recommend that you agree to hear what Professor Sullivan has to say, and would be happy to invite her to join us in an online meeting with you.

Persistent inaccuracies in the 2020 Labour Party Rule Book

Shockingly, the Labour Party Rule Book still does not reference the Equality Act 2010, and many of the phrases about countering discrimination incorrectly list the protected categories from the Act; for example ‘sex’, which is a protected characteristic, is referred to only twice whereas ‘gender identity’, which is not a protected characteristic, is referred to many times as if it is an accepted, agreed and definable concept. This is not the case. Furthermore, this issue has never been discussed and agreed at Conference.

These errors were brought to the attention of Jennie Formby by our Working Group in 2018, but no response was received despite several reminders having been sent. It has now been brought to the attention of the Chair of the NEC Equality Sub-Committee, as no correction to these errors and omissions has been made in the 2020 Rule Book. Surely it is reasonable to expect that the Rule Book of Her Majesty’s Opposition Party should correctly reference existing UK law?

We would very much like the opportunity to discuss these important issues with you at the earliest possible opportunity.

Please do contact us to let us know when it will be possible for us to arrange an online meeting along with Johann Lamont.

Yours sincerely

[Names included]

  • You can read our previous letter to Keir in this PDF (which is a duplicate of the appendix we refer to in the letter above): 23 April letter – appendix to 9 June letter to Keir Starmer
  • See our social media channels for calls to action and ideas for how you can support the Labour Women’s Declaration Group in attracting Keir’s attention to the vital issue of women’s sex-based rights.

Letter to Liz Truss about single sex spaces

Letter to Women and Equalities Minister Liz Truss

Under the banner of Women Uniting, Labour Women’s Declaration group has joined with all the other political party women’s pledge groups, plus Fair Play For Women and FiLiA, in signing a letter to the Minister for Women and Equalities, Liz Truss.

It comes in response to a commitment she made, as part of giving evidence to the Women and Equalities Select Committee on 22 April, to protect single sex spaces. You can read a transcript of her statement in full here.

Here’s a flavour of the Women Uniting letter: “We are writing to you as groups of women organising, from across all political parties and none. We hope you will be able to build cross-party consensus on this area where clarity and respect is needed for all service users as well as frontline staff.”

Read the letter in full via the link below:

Letter to Liz Truss about protecting single sex spaces

Why not use it as inspiration to write to your MP on the issue.

YouTube channel & website launch

YouTube channel & website launch

We’ve been quietly working away behind the scenes, adding our previous articles and press releases to our new website, ahead of it ‘going live’ today. Not only that, but we’ve also set up a Labour Women’s Declaration YouTube Channel.

Our first videos are from last month’s #ExpelMe Rally. Links to all these are below. (You can also read transcripts of some of the speeches here and find out about attempts to silence women attending the rally here).

So welcome to the website, thanks for reading and please share it (and our future posts) with those you think will be interested. Spreading the word is an important part of what the Declaration is about.

Visit the channel, via the links below, to hear from those who spoke at the event:

Mary Mason introduces the rally              Message from Johann Lamont MSP

Kiri Tunks of WPUK                                        Bev Jackson of LGB Alliance

Prof. Selina Todd                                              Lucy Masoud

Debbie Hayton                                                   Lachlan Stuart

Paul Embery                                                       Julie Bindel

  • Please spread the word by sharing the videos, and our website, on social media! You can also subscriber to our YouTube channel and this site. (There’s a form below for the latter – see bottom left.)