In support of Karen Ingala Smith
Karen Ingala Smith (pictured left) is the CEO of nia, a London-based domestic and sexual violence charity working to end violence against women and girls. She also founded and carries out the Counting Dead Women project – which records all the women in the UK killed through men’s violence. From this came The Femicide Census, which is now established as a leading articulation of men’s fatal violence against women in the UK.
Karen has recently been refused membership of the Labour Party and told she is not wanted within its ranks. Below is our statement in support of and in solidarity with her.
“We wish to express our outrage that Karen Ingala Smith has been barred from membership of the Labour Party. Karen is a long-standing and well-respected campaigner for abused and vulnerable women as CEO of the charity Nia. Her Counting Dead Women project is a unique, moving and sadly all too necessary exercise in the highlighting of male violence against women, reminding us all that women who die at the hands of men are not just statistics, but individuals in their own right; irreplaceable daughters, sisters, aunties, mothers, grandmothers, cousins, nieces, friends, colleagues and loved ones. So well thought-of is the project by Labour MP Jess Phillips that each year she uses Karen’s tireless research to read out the names of these victims of male violence in the Commons. Thus they are recorded in Hansard and not forgotten, while Karen (and others like her) campaign to end the male violence that makes it necessary to undertake such a grim roll call.
While Jess Phillips may value Karen’s contribution and her legacy (as do many female survivors of male violence) it raises serious questions of the Labour Party that her application for membership has been declined. The reason given? Because Karen has apparently ‘engaged in conduct online that may reasonably be seen to demonstrate hostility based on gender identity.’
We call on the Labour Party to provide evidence of this supposed hostility, what gender identity is and how apparent hostility towards it is a factor in determining membership of the Labour Party. Gender identity is a concept which has not been defined and has no basis in UK Law. How can it be used to justify exclusion?
We agree with Karen; the Equality Act 2010 and the Labour Party 2019 Manifesto that women have the right to access properly-resourced single-sex spaces and services which meet their needs. (Karen’s evidence at the Commons Equality Committee on the need for single sex exemptions, and all her speeches at Woman’s Place UK meeting are available online).
The Labour Party needs to reconsider this rash decision. If Karen is barred from membership, then the Party also needs to bar all 4,500 signatories of our Declaration, including scores of Labour councillors, CLP Chairs, Women’s Officers and three MSPs.
We are members of the Labour Party. We stand in solidarity with Karen. Sex matters. Defend us or expel us.”