Joint statement on Govt responsibility to uphold women’s sex-based rights

Labour Women’s Declaration is proud to stand in solidarity with the women who have campaigned for women’s sex-based rights across political parties and in the wider women’s liberation movement.

Together with the women of  Woman’s Place UK, FiLia, Fair Play for Women, the Institute of Feminist Thought, Women Uniting, SNP Women’s Pledge, WEP Women’s Sex-Based Rights Caucus, Green Feminists, the Conservative Women’s Pledge, and the Liberal Democrats Sex-Based Rights Declaration we call on the government to ensure that women everywhere benefit in everyday life from the provisions made in the Equality Act 2010 to counter sexism and violence against women and girls, particularly with respect to single-sex spaces and services for women and girls. We know that this matters greatly to women, and we will continue to fight for women’s sex-based rights.

We welcome this week’s announcement by the Minister for Women and Equalities. We are pleased that she has struck a balance between improving the process for obtaining a GRC for trans people and restating the importance of women’s sex-based rights. All of our campaigning has been clear that we want everyone to be able to live their life free from harassment or discrimination. Women have worked hard to have our voices heard on issues that affect us. We are pleased that the Minister has listened. She has made clear that the law enables single-sex services and protections for women on the basis of biological sex. We call on the Minister to make a clear statement about the operation of the single sex exceptions under the Equality Act 2010 and how they interact with the GRA 2004. We also call on her to make sure all guidance from the EHRC to service providers, commissioners and employers is a clear and accurate reflection of the law. The same principle should apply to guidance to courts, other public authorities and media. It is clear that too many women are being obstructed from accessing the services and support we need by the ignorance or intransigence of organisations which need to know the law better.

Woman’s Place UK

FiLia

Fairplay For Women

The Institue Of Feminist thought

Women’s Equality Party Sex-Based Rights Caucus 

Labour Party Labour Women’s Declaration 

SNP Women’s pledge

Green Feminists Women & Girls Sex-based rights Declaration

Conservative Party  CUP Women’s Pledge

Liberal Democrats  Women’s Sex-based rights Declaration

 

 

Labour Peers speak up for women

Today’s urgent questions in the House of Lords saw three Labour Peers, speak up for women. Lord Triesman, Lord Young of Norwood Green and Lord Hunt of Kings Heath all expressed their satisfaction that the government has responded sensibly to the GRA consultation. Lord Triesman spoke out against the vilification of women such as JK Rowling who express the view that women’s rights can be exercised on the basis of biological sex, while Lord Young and Lord Hunt  pressed the government on the question of what guidance it will issue to ensure organisations  understand and implement existing law in relation to the single-sex exemptions in the Equality Act. Many organisations and institutions have already changed their policies and practices in anticipation of  legal changes and on advice that misinterprets the law, so it is crucial that the government acts to clarify how the exemptions can be applied and properly enforced.

We applaud our Labour Peers Lord Hunt, Lord Young (both signatories of Labour Women’s Declaration) and Lord Triesman for speaking up. Women especially lesbians have pushed hard for their voices to be heard. The Lords have clearly listened. That the Lords are speaking creates a space for others – especially Labour MPs who have been notably silent on women’s rights and the right for women to speak about issues around sex-based rights. They also create a space for the Labour Party to move forward and open up the respectful dialogue between gender identity campaigners and advocates for women’s sex-based rights that is much needed.

Click on the links below to hear their full commentary and questions

Lord Hunt of Kings Heath

Lord Young of Norwood Green

Lord Triesman

Thank you Marsha De Cordova

“What will the Minister do to ensure that all public bodies including the Government Equality Office and the Equality & Human Rights Commission produce statutory guidance which is in keeping with the legislation?”

Sincere thanks to Marsha De Cordova,  Labour Shadow Secretary for Women and Equalities, for asking this crucial question in support of Labour’s 2019 manifesto pledge “Ensure that the single-sex-based exemptions contained in the Equality Act 2010 are understood and fully enforced in service provision”

To watch Marsha De Cordova’s full commentary and questions, follow this link.

 

Our response to the Scottish Hate Crime consultation

The Scottish Government recently held a consultation on proposed changes to hate crime and public order legislation in Scotland. The consultation closed on 24th July 2020.

Among many concerns about the proposed changes to the law  are fears that it will affect free speech – including the ability to speak about women’s sex-based rights.

Our working group, led by members in Scotland, submitted a detailed response to the consultation – which you can read via the PDF below.

LWD Scottish Hate Crime & Public Order Consultation Response

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.

Labour Women Speak #2

Labour Women Speak is a series of articles giving Labour women members and supporters the opportunity to share their views on why they speak up about sex and gender issues.

Delyth Rennie is a former social worker and children’s guardian. Delyth is a member of the Labour Party. Here she describes how and why she felt compelled to speak up about sex and gender.

I’m an unashamedly Second Wave feminist, whilst acknowledging there were/are undoubtedly a lot of issues to address within that feminism.

I worked in social care for 30 years; 23 of those years as a qualified social worker including 10 years as a children’s guardian. I now work in hospitality. Whilst working as a social worker/guardian, I had NO IDEA about gender ideology or the attack on women’s rights.

On leaving social work, I joined Twitter, but wasn’t particularly active. Anyway, I had a question about female specific mountain bikes. Somehow I responded to a cycling journalist and as a result a female American mountain biker replied to me. She said female specific bikes were ‘horseshit’ and I’d retorted that what was horseshit was not being able to get a bike to fit (I’m a small WOMAN!). There was some to-ing and fro-ing and she offered advice about bikes. On reflection, I perhaps should have questioned more robustly her antipathy to FEMALE specific bikes, but the notion of bikes to fit ‘people’ rather than ‘pinking and shrinking’ seemed to make some sense. (Still no good for me at 5′ 0″ tall. I had to get a woman specific bike!)

Consequently, I followed her on Twitter and liked her sweary tweets, BUT then! She tweeted something like “Rachel you’re a woman and these bastards can f*ck off”. Attached was picture of Rachel McKinnon (who I understand has since changed name). I wondered what on earth was going on. Having hitherto been oblivious, it’s fair to say the penny didn’t just drop – a ton of loose change banged me on the head repeatedly! DUH! My awakening was the realisation that a man could identify as a woman and apparently participate in women’s sport. British cycling seemed just fine with this!!! (McKinnon is Canadian, but has participated in Masters cycling events in the UK).

Although I really didn’t know much about the debate, I quickly learnt if you question gender ideology, if you think there is ANY discussion to be had, you’re called bigot, fascist, racist!!? (I was upset when first added to ‘Nazis on Twitter’ lists, but soon got over it when I saw the illustrious company I was in). It didn’t matter that you were a left wing feminist – to some you were the definition of a ‘transphobic bigot’.

I’d naively thought gender ID was about respecting pronouns really (and like so many women, wanted to be ‘nice’ and ‘kind’). As I engaged with it more, I realised it required total and utter capitulation; that the mantra ‘transwomen are women’ was meant literally, hence a penis on a transwoman is considered a biologically female penis. And lesbians who wouldn’t have sex with a biological male who identifies as trans are therefore ‘transphobic’. The homophobia (or rather lesbophobia) as well as the misogyny at the heart of gender ideology truly dawned on me.

The journey continued and I had my ’15 minutes of fame’ when I asked Alice Roberts (TV presenter and Professor) a question on Twitter (the Humanist Society, of which she is president had ignored my letter). She responded and it went crazy!

Imagine my astonishment when I felt compelled to reply to a professor for public engagement in science: “Goodness. Each person can write their own biology? Post modern biology. Wow. Sex – female, large gametes; male – small gametes.”

My ‘pinned tweet’ is part of that discussion. I think my frustration and disbelief at the lack of scientific rigour on display became even more evident as Professor Roberts starting invoking ‘compassion’, imploring feminists not to be ‘mean’. It reads: “Mean & nasty is prioritising gender identity over my sex-based protections which are disappearing. Mean is transactivists calling us ‘terfs’ [and] Nazis. Wishing us dead in ‘grease fires’ or ‘throat punched’. Biology is not bigotry. It’s not difficult.”

Oh – and she blocked me and a lot of others who took part in the conversation. (At no point was I, or anyone else I noticed participating, rude or abusive). The age of disenlightenment indeed. (This exchange can be found on twitter via my pinned tweet should you wish to look).

I am now extremely concerned about the implications for ‘gender non-conforming’ and other vulnerable children. The sexism and homophobia inherent in the ‘transing’ of children is horrifying and I remain bewildered that so many grown-ups in the room cheer this on, complicit in the most extreme form of conversion therapy. It is also concerning that those directly involved in child safeguarding (especially social work and teaching) either remain silent for fear of losing their jobs/being disciplined/branded as transphobic, or are actually actively involved in promoting this reactionary ideology.