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.


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

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.

Lesbian Visibility Week – Part 2

The lesbian battle against s. 28

For Lesbian Visibility Week here’s the second of our articles in which supporters of the Labour Women’s Declaration share their personal experiences of being a lesbian on the Left.

Let me take you back to 1988, the year Section 28 of the Local Government Act received Royal Assent. Section 28 prohibited Local Authorities and schools from ‘promoting homosexuality’ and also prevented them from funding lesbian and gay initiatives. The Act received a majority vote in Parliament on 24th May. Margaret Thatcher said: “They think they have an inalienable right to be gay.” The day before, four lesbians disrupted the BBC 6 O’ Clock News – shouting “No to Section 28!”. The 9 O’ Clock News then reported the story. (The lesbians spent some time in a police cell before being released.) In February of that year, another group of lesbians got into the House of Lord’s public gallery. Two of them abseiled into the chamber, using a washing line they’d bought in Camden Market. 1988 was also the year children’s book Jenny lives with Eric and Martin became famous as a threat to the State and was banned from schools, along with a book for teenagers called Young, Gay and Proud.

Lesbian protesters at the BBC (Pic credit: BBC)

In 1988 I lived in North West England. I was at Lancaster University and was a member of the Uni Lesbian Club. People often think that a North West lesbian and gay world didn’t exist outside Manchester – but it did. There was strong, working class lesbian life present in many towns beyond Manchester. Sunday night was often disco night, as women travelled to pubs where the landlord had let women take over a function room. The ale flowed, the dancing could be manic, relationships started or ended and there was always some woman crying in the toilets! Many of us were not out – not even to our families. There were few lesbian role models and lesbians with children could lose custody of them as Courts agreed with angry husbands that there was a real danger we could ‘indoctrinate’ these children to a life of homosexuality.

Section 28 was known about in the North West, but I only remember talking about it with Labour Party friends and in the Uni Lesbian Club. Despite the apparent lack of awareness, the notice of a demonstration against Section 28 in Manchester on 20th February was being talked about at the discos. I went on a coach that started in Chorley, went through Preston and picked up in Blackburn. We marched through the centre of Manchester to Albert Square. Tom Robinson sang Glad to be gay and Jimmy Somerville sang There is more to love than boy meets girl. I don’t remember who spoke, or what was said, but my most abiding memory was thousands of lesbians – some holding hands and some kissing. “You can’t put put us back in the box,” I thought. Stonewall was established in 1989 and became the main campaigning organisation for the equality of lesbians, gay men and bisexual people.

Section 28 was repealed in Scotland in 2000 and the rest of the UK in 2003. Lesbians were not put back in the box. We grew to be a significant part of the gay rights community, campaigning and successfully achieving a reduction in the age of consent (2001), adoption rights (2002) and civil partnerships (2004). Many of us would have said we had a place at what would later become the ‘LGBT’ table and the advances made were won by all of us working together. Section 28 was repealed because it was obviously discriminatory but also it was senseless trying to pretend we, lesbians and gay men, did not exist.

Was the campaign to repeal Section 28 the same as today’s transgender campaign for sex-self identification? I would say the campaign I was involved in during 1988, and the subsequent years, was about the collective desire for equality, the rights of millions of people to be accepted as they were: same sex attracted. The transgender campaign for self-ID is not about accepting who someone is, but is based on a belief that by simple declaration you can change your biology and become a something different: the opposite sex. This then gives a man the right to call himself a woman, to take the space of a woman, to take prizes and awards meant for women and to speak for women – all examples of male dominance that feminists have been campaigning against for centuries. Lesbians are campaigning with others to stop the loss of sex-based rights, services and spaces – and we are also fighting for ourselves and our rights to love our same sex: women. This women’s rights campaign seems to me to have more in common with the fight against section 28 than the campaign for self-ID does.

About the author, Carol Angharad. “I would not change the twists and turns of my life. I’m a proud lesbian and LWD campaigner.” Carol went travelling straight after leaving school and worked in shops and offices upon her return. She got married at 23, then had three lovely children, found feminism, in the shape of Spare Rib and the Women’s Press, and fell in love with a woman. She lost her children in a custody battle (but they chose to live with her as soon as they could). After university, she trained as a child care social worker – a career she followed for more than 20 years. She now lives in Derbyshire with her partner of 30 years and is blessed with grandchildren and great grandchildren.

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.)