Response to Government GRA Statement

No substantial reform of the GRA process 

Labour Women’s Declaration welcomes the decision not to proceed with changing the Gender Recognition Act (GRA) to permit self-identification as the only prerequisite for the granting of a Gender Recognition Certificate (GRC). The safeguarding of transitioning individuals demands proper checks and professional expertise, as is intended by the current provisions of the Act. Of course, only a small proportion of those who declare themselves transgender currently apply for a GRC, but the expectation of a legal self-identification route has led to policies across many institutions and businesses being devised on that basis.

We are hopeful that the new clinics in the process of development, and the proposed training of GPs, will include a much greater emphasis on counselling and psychotherapy to enable individuals proposing to transition to fully consider all aspects of the changes before embarking on the hormonal, and possibly surgical, aspects of transition. We agree with Labour’s Shadow Minister in her emphasis on the need for investment in healthcare provision and for pressing the government for clarity on the actual substance of these proposals.

We would like to see greater consultation with, and support for, the civil partners and spouses of those undertaking a change of legal status. Currently, their only involvement in the process is providing a statutory declaration stating whether they are or are not willing to continue the marriage/civil partnership after granting of a GRC – and if not, a provisional certificate is given until a divorce is granted (or death of the partner/spouse). The impact on such individuals is immense, and for many the decision of their partner to transition has profound implications for their lives and those of any children. This is, of course, true for the partners of those transitioners who do not apply for a GRC or have not entered into a legal contract of marriage/civil partnership, also. However, where change of legal status is to be granted, the legal status of the marriage/civil partnership contract is also changed, affecting both partners.

It was deeply disappointing to hear Labour’s Shadow Secretary for Women and Equalities, during Women and Equalities questions in the House of Commons on 23 September, describe the decision to retain the current process for the acquisition of a Gender Recognition Certificate as ‘disgraceful’ and regarding it as letting the transgender community down. Retaining the GRA as it is does not take any rights away from transgender people. Self-identification would be problematic for many contexts, including spouses/civil partners, data collection and single-sex provisions, as well as potentially for the individual themselves who might have no route to find the support needed for making a major life change.

Equality Act 2010

We are very pleased that Ms Truss has agreed with the policy of the Labour Party, as outlined in the 2019 Manifesto, regarding the single-sex provisions of the Equality Act 2010. The wish to “ensure that the single-sex-based exemptions contained in the Equality Act 2010 are understood and fully enforced in service provision” is now the policy of both Labour and Conservative parties, with the Conservative government looking to strengthen this aspect of the Act. We hope this will result in greater clarity, and an end to the inaccurate interpretations perpetuated by Stonewall and others – even the EHRC. We are alarmed that the EHRC has tweeted its disagreement with the government’s statement. Given its duty to provide accurate guidance for public bodies, and having been required to withdraw its previous inaccurate advice on the single sex exceptions, it is of considerable concern that it is failing in its duty to foster good relations between groups with different protected characteristics.

One of the extremely serious and all-pervasive effects of this inaccuracy has been that local authorities, businesses, schools, funders, the NHS and others have created a situation where previously understood single-sex spaces – hospital wards, women’s refuges and hostels, public toilets, et al – are now effectively mixed-sex through being understood as ‘single gender’, with gender relying on self-identification. We trust that these existing situations will be addressed alongside bringing clarity to future applications of the single-sex exemptions of the Equality Act.

Conversion therapy

It is a mark of the seriousness with which Ms Truss has approached the issue of conversion therapy for lesbians and gay men that research is already being undertaken into the current situation before proceeding to any legal means to prevent this heinous practice. It has reduced enormously over recent decades, but it is clearly important to ensure that no-one is subjected to such attempts to change their sexual orientation. We look forward to hearing the proposals next month.

Review of gender identity services for children and young people

We were pleased to hear the confirmation that the former President of the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health, Dr Hilary Cass OBE, will lead the wide-ranging review into gender identity services for children and young people. It is crucial that clinical protocols and referral routes serve children and young people well, and that the current presumption of ‘affirmation’ is challenged. We welcome the investigation into the enormous rise in the number of children referred to such services. We look forward to her report next year.

Whatever the outcome of that report, it is quite obviously essential that the government invests in the training of practitioners and provision of vastly more mental health services for all young people in the UK.

Looking to the future

As stated above, we are very concerned that so many government organisations, official bodies and businesses have run ahead of the law. Self-identification has been embedded in the policies and practices of the NHS, schools, police, councils, government departments, and many more organisations,  as a result of adopting Stonewall Diversity Champion’s kitemark, or incorrect advice from government funded lobby groups, without proper evaluation or  impact assessment of the effect on women. It is of the utmost importance that the government and all other bodies with influence now work to correct these policies, which are damaging to the interests of women, lesbians, and gay men. The conflation of sex and gender must be addressed, and a full understanding of the importance of sex as a protected characteristic fully taken into account.

Free speech for women members of the Labour Party

We, along with many other women, have been silenced and threatened, including with complaints to Labour’s Governance and Legal Unit, and with CLPs refusing to permit us to speak. This is not the way to enable a sensible understanding of these important issues. We call on the Labour Party as well as the government to stand up for the right of women to speak about matters which directly affect us, without intimidation or abuse.

For more details our briefing for MPs and Peers on all these issues can be found on here.

Follow this link to the responses from sister organisations to the government’s GRA announcement here.

Statement on Women and Equalities Questions, 22 July 2020

Today, the last day of this sitting before the summer recess, there were questions to the Minister for Women and Equalities, Liz Truss. It had previously been said that a statement would come before the recess, responding to the GRA consultation. This did not happen, but questions alluded to that and related issues. Ms Truss’s key responses were as follows:

As the Prime Minister said, we will respond to the consultation over the summer. Let me be absolutely clear: we will not be rolling back the rights of transgender people. It is important that transgender people are able to live their lives as they wish, without fear, and we will make sure that that is the case.

I have been clear that the Government are committed to tackling the abhorrent practice of so-called gay-conversion therapy in the UK. As the Prime Minister reiterated earlier this week, this practice has no place in civilised society. Our action will be determined by research looking at how best to define conversion therapy, the scale of the issue, where it is happening and who it is happening to. When that research is complete, I will bring forward proposals to ban conversion therapy, making sure that our measures are effective so that no innocent people have to endure such tortuous practices.

We are as disappointed as some of those hoping for specific changes to the Gender Recognition Act that the Minister for Women and Equalities is still not coming out with a clear statement about the Conservative government’s intentions regarding the proposed reform. That this has been delayed to some unspecified time during the recess does not inspire confidence. However, we are pleased that Ms Truss has explained that there is to be no roll-back on trans rights, despite the implication from certain quarters that not making a change to self-ID constitutes a roll-back.

Any reform to the GRA must rely on evidence of need and have comprehensive Equality Impact Assessment for proposed changes. The impact of such reform on women’s and on lesbian, gay and bisexual rights must be fully assessed, including clarification of the interactions between the EA2010 and the GRA.

We are also concerned that nothing further has been said about strengthening the single-sex exceptions in the Equality Act, nor about protecting children and young people under 18 from making decisions about potentially life-changing treatment.

We are pleased that research is to be conducted regarding the prevalence and definition of gay conversion therapy, before any moves to present legislative or other proposals. We also note that this statement from Ms Truss referred quite explicitly to gay conversion therapy and not so-called ‘gender identity conversion therapy’.

We await the forthcoming statement.

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.

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.)

#ExpelMe Rally – speeches

Defend me or expel me rally

The #ExpelMe rally (on Mon 9th March 2020) was organised by London supporters of the Labour Women’s Declaration (LWD) and held in support of Woman’s Place UK (WPUK) and the LGB Alliance.

The sold-out rally was attended by around 300 people and was a response to some of the Labour leadership and deputy leadership contenders signing the Labour Campaign for Trans Rights’ pledge. One of the twelve points of this pledge labelled WPUK and the LGB Alliance ‘hate groups’; another called on the Labour Party to expel anyone who supports women’s sex-based rights.

Below are links to PDFs of some of the speeches given at the event.

 

Bev Jackson speech 9 Mar 20            Kiri Tunks speech 9 Mar 20

Lachlan Stuart speech 9 Mar 20      Lucy Masoud 9 Mar 20