Event: Sex matters in a sexist society

Public meeting co-hosted by Labour Women’s Declaration and Labour Peer David Triesman during Labour Party conference week

Why does sex matter in a sexist society?

Join us in Brighton on Tuesday 28 September 2021 from 6 to 9pm for an evening of talks and discussions on women’s sex-based rights with Labour politicians and activists. Hear from those campaigning to retain and strengthen women’s rights across all sectors on why this is also a vital issue for the Labour Party. Support our freedom to discuss these issues in a respectful atmosphere. Click here to book.

The evening includes a special focus on girls and women’s right to participate in single-sex sport at all levels.

This will be the first opportunity for many Labour members and supporters to hear directly from the Labour Women’s Declaration and from our sister organisation, Lesbian Labour.

Labour Women’s Declaration supports the Labour Party’s manifesto commitment to women’s sex-based rights as set out in the Equality Act 2010. Thousands of members have agreed with us and signed our Declaration:

Speakers confirmed so far include: 

Three Labour activists who are also leading researchers and academics on fairness for women in sport

  • Emma Hilton, Development Biologist, University of Manchester and Sex Matters;
  • Jon Pike, Philosopher, Open University Gender Critical Network;
  • Cathy Devine, Independent Researcher;

Plus speakers from the main campaigns within the Labour Party for women’s sex-based rights:

Chair: Ceri Williams, Labour Women’s Declaration Working Group.

Q and A with speakers and additional panel members including Labour MPs and peers.

Reception 8pm – 9pm: An opportunity to chat with other attendees and panel members.

The venue will be notified to attendees by email on the day – close to conference centre, wheelchair accessible. Please let us know if you have any accessibility needs: labourwomensdeclaration@gmail.com

Covid safety: We are adhering to the venue’s capacity guidelines, seating will be well-spaced, an air filter will be in operation during the meeting, attendees are asked to wear masks at all times when possible, and we ask all attendees and stewards to do an LFT Covid test on the day.

Support the event: If anyone would like to add an extra donation, to help us cover costs, you can do this via ‘add-ons’ on the tickets page, whether you are attending or not.

We look forward to seeing you there!

(Image with many thanks to Sofia Luna)

LWD Hosts NWC Candidates: Zoom Event, Sunday 13th June, 4pm

The policy-forming Labour Party Women’s Conference and the formation of a new National Women’s Committee have been achieved by the hard work of Labour women who have championed the cause of women’s rights and representation within the party; Labour women who know the value of women’s participation and organisation for the Labour movement. The Labour Party implemented all-women shortlists aiming towards 50/50 representation of the sexes – but without a strong women’s organisation behind them we cannot expect our representatives to advocate for our collective needs and betterment. There are still many obstacles in the way of women’s participation. The route to candidacy to the women’s committee has highlighted areas that need to be improved for women who are attempting to link up and prepare for Women’s Conference this year. For independent candidates, the avenues for campaigning are restrictive, and they are told by the party that they must rely on their own networks in order to promote their message and find support. These prohibiting factors will be among the features of the National Women’s Organisation that the Women’s Committee will need to work at improving when formed.
We at Labour Women’s Declaration are hosting four independent candidates. Morgan Fackrell, Jennifer Smith, Claudia Sorin and Ruth Woodhall are all signatories to the Labour Women’s Declaration and are actively engaged within the Labour Party. The four women have ideas of their own about what is needed to improve women’s organising and amplify women’s voices within the party.
To hear from them, please register for our public zoom meeting on Sunday 13 June at 4 pm to have the chance to put your questions to them. We encourage you to invite delegates to Women’s Conference to hear what these four candidates have to offer as NWC contenders.
At a time when the matter of democratic decision making within the party is being put up for debate, we need to make certain that the women we elect have a firm understanding of what participatory politics means in order to better the lives of all women in 2021 and beyond. This means improving transparency, accountability and channels of communication for women at all levels within the Labour Party.
Claudia Sorin
Since joining the Labour Party eight years ago I have played an active part both at branch and CLP and as a campaigner on local and national issues around the NHS, schools and SEND, and housing. I bring a wealth of campaigning experience having been the parliamentary candidate for West Dorset in 2019. I’m proud to be active in my union as a health and safety rep, supporting colleagues day to day and throughout the pandemic. As a member of the National Women’s Committee I will bring greater transparency and more opportunities for women to be involved in the party at every level. I will introduce strong and consistent democratic processes for internal policymaking and elections. Most importantly, I will stand up for women’s rights and for our sex-based protections to be maintained in accordance with the Equality Act 2010. Campaign website
Ruth Woodhall
As a CLP women’s rep, I will work with the other reps to ensure that the National Women’s Organisation fully engages and represents women at constituency level and that we are capable of running popular national and local campaigns for women. I want to use my professional experience of running women’s peer-training to help you to set up, develop, and network your women’s branch, and increase women members’ confidence, participation, public profiles, technical and political knowledge and skills.
In our branches we can diffuse knowledge (and techniques) to challenge sexism and support each other to break free of all stereotypes that lead to sacrificing women’s specific needs to appease some ‘greater good’. I want to ensure women are enabled to write motions that reflect needs in their constituencies and take an active part in policy making in the party and in public consultations, to develop the society women want and that serves our interests as a class.
In the first two years of the NWO, establishing an effective, resilient, and mutually supportive base in the women’s branches will be absolutely vital to achieving our long-term aims. I am already helping women in several CLPs to establish their branches, network, and take part fully in this year’s Women’s Conference. Vote for me and building this type of lively, local participation across the country will be my focus for the next two years. I pledge to be available to listen before and to report back after every committee meeting. Campaign website
Morgan Fackrell
I’ve been a community activist most of my adult life. For the best part of the last 25 years, I’ve led organisations delivering frontline services addressing issues including social justice and equality, poverty, homelessness and violence against women and girls. I want to see a much bigger, strong, vibrant and loud women’s democratic network within the Labour party. I am a lesbian feminist and unapologetic about saying we have not achieved any of the stated goals of the women’s liberation movement of the 60s-70s and that is a sad indictment of all western democracies. Campaign website
Jennifer Smith
I have been an active Labour Party member for seven years, holding various roles in my constituency including women’s officer and organiser in Bury. On a local level, I have overcome several barriers to organising women in the party, from training and supporting local candidates to organising campaigning, meetings, and supporting local women outside of the party. The party is taking a step in the right direction by setting up the National Women’s Committee and as a CLP representative on the committee I will bring my experience to ensure the party better enables women to organise and communicate. Before setting up my own business, I worked for several years in and alongside local and national government to form policy and ensure delivery in the field of energy and fuel poverty. I will use all my expertise to ensure the new national women’s committee builds a strong central set of priorities to enable more Labour women to gain and sustain a voice in the party. The key to grassroots participation is through the new women’s branches and women’s officer structure, which I will prioritise – building formal networking and training to allow women to build local and regional contacts, organise on policy development and support each other within the party. Campaign website

The Silencing of Women in the Labour Party: Dossier prepared for David Evans, General Secretary of the Labour Party

A longer dossier was initially prepared in October 2020 for a meeting which had been arranged with David Evans. That meeting was postponed by him due to pressure of work, with an offer of a future date. Despite three reminders, and sending this shortened version of the dossier, we are still waiting for that date.

When it is agreed, this paper will be brought up to date with additional recent evidence of abuse and silencing of women in the party. Meanwhile we are making the dossier available publicly because we believe it is important, in particular for Labour Party members, to know what has been happening. 

Download the document here:  LWD Silencing of Women in the Labour Party

International women’s day in the time of Covid

2020’s IWD came just before the World Health Organisation declared Covid-19 a pandemic. On this, hopefully the only IWD we will spend in lockdown in the UK, it is a good moment to reflect on what the pandemic has meant for women here, and in particular how the policies and actions of the Conservative government have impacted on women.

On 9 February, the Women and Equalities Select Committee published Unequal impact? Coronavirus and the Gendered Economic Impact. The report states explicitly that the schemes the government put into place so rapidly had not had any equality impact assessment and “design of these schemes overlooked … the specific and well-understood labour market and caring inequalities faced by women.”

So many supposed safety nets have not been equality impact assessed. Not only the specific Covid-related schemes, but universal credit, statutory sick pay, the flexible working regulations and redundancy protection all fail to take into account the particular needs and circumstances of women.The committee’s report also highlights that there has been no adequate response to enquiries about the impact on women of government policies. Indeed, the Government Equalities Office has been dismissive of the requirement, under the public sector equality duty as outlined in the Equality Act 2010 to consider the effects of policies on all those with protected characteristics, including women.

Interestingly, just as the 2021 census is set to go ahead with guidance which would enable self-identification of sex and hence serious corruption of data, the committee recommends that all government departments should be required to collect and publish data disaggregated by sex (and the other protected characteristics). The Women’s Budget Group welcomes the report, and we commend to all readers their detailed and analytical report, A Care-Led Recovery from Coronavirus.

This plan demonstrates that investment in care would provide 2.7 times as many jobs as investment in construction, create two million jobs, and raise 50 per cent more in tax – as well as producing 30 per cent fewer greenhouse gas emissions.

If we are to have positive news by next International Women’s Day, it is essential that both Labour and Conservative parties commit to the
recommendations of the Women and Equalities Select Committee and the Women’s Budget Group.

Sex in the Census

With a month to go until the census on March 21, 15 organisations including LWD have launched the Sex in the Census campaign to protest against the last-minute decision by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) not to ask people to answer accurately with their biological sex.
The Sex in the Census campaign is not a boycott of the census but asks people to request a paper copy of the census and return it with a letter that will ask the ONS to confirm that they will only record the respondent’s sex as “sex registered at birth”.
The group is calling for the mandatory sex question to clearly and accurately count men and women based on sex.
Please visit this new joint website and help us highlight this last minute cave-in by the ONS.

#sexinthecensus

#Census2021

We stand with Kiri

Kiri Tunks is a teacher, socialist, internationalist, co-founder of Woman’s Place UK and a founder signatory of Labour Women’s Declaration. In January 2021, Kiri was invited to speak at a Labour Party ward meeting to mark International Women’s Day. She was asked to speak about challenging sexism in education and wider society. This week she was told that her invitation to speak had been rescinded because of her connection to Woman’s Place UK.

On 17th February, she wrote an open letter (published below) which she sent to the ward chair, asking for it to be circulated to all members of the ward. She also sent it to the local MP, representatives on the regional executive and senior figures within the parliamentary Labour Party including the shadow minister for women & equalities and the general secretary of the party. She indicated to all her intention to make the letter public but has requested that we do not identify the ward.

Labour Women’s Declaration, on behalf of thousands of Labour-voting women and men, stands in solidarity with Kiri. Where she went first, many of us follow. Kiri is an inspiration to women around the world to stand up for women’s rights: her writing and activism stand as an example of what’s possible and her courage is second to none.

Please share this post and her letter – especially with your Labour-supporting friends and comrades. Ask them to stand up for Kiri, for science, for truth, for women’s liberation, for free speech and for socialism.
#IStandWithKiri
See Kiri in action at our #ExpelMe rally one year ago here 

“Dear members of the Labour Party ward which invited me and then disinvited me to speak at your meeting on challenging sexism to celebrate International Women’s Day,
Let me introduce myself: My name is Kiri Tunks. I am a member of the Labour Party. I have been a teacher and trade union activist for over 27 years.
During this time, I have been a relentless campaigner for working people with a particular commitment to fighting for equality for all. With other women (and men), I have worked hard to challenge discrimination and injustice by representing members individually; by working to win policies to improve the collective well-being of education staff across all phases and roles; by bringing issues of international solidarity to the attention of everyone in the labour movement; by challenging unequal structures and oppressive cultures within workplaces, the union movement and beyond.
I have held a number of positions within my union, as well as being a delegate and representative for various bodies and events both locally, nationally and internationally.
In 2016, I was elected as a national officer of the National Union of Teachers, becoming president of the NUT in 2018 and later joint president of the newly formed National Education Union.
Throughout my career, I have committed myself to empowering and engaging people who might otherwise be silenced or silent and to making sure that I do what I can to remove obstacles that obstruct the full involvement of everyone. It is because of this record that I am regularly invited to speak to other groups and organisations right across the labour movement.
I believe it is why I was invited to speak at your ward meeting on challenging the sexism faced by women and girls in society and within education.
I have now been informed that I am no longer welcome and that the invitation to speak has been withdrawn.
The reason I have been given is that the chair claimed my speaking would ‘upset’ people and that the ward has a ‘duty of care’ towards its members. This is despite my having spoken recently at several other Labour Party meetings with no evidence of any malice or upset.
The branch also has a duty, not only to stand up for freedom of speech, but the freedom to hear and participate in debate.
A further objection to my presence was that I was a founder of Woman’s Place UK and that this is a ‘hate group’. This is simply not true. Woman’s Place UK is not a hate group; nor is it designated as such by Labour.
Woman’s Place UK is a campaign group that was set-up to ensure women’s voices were heard on the public consultation into proposed reforms of the GRA, and to protect women’s rights as they are enshrined in the Equality Act 2010.
Single sex-exemptions, as laid out in the Equality Act 2010, allow women (and men) to reserve access to services, places and spaces where to do so is a “proportionate means of achieving a legitimate aim”.
This is the policy of Woman’s Place UK.
This is also the policy of the Labour Party as set out in the 2019 manifesto.
I do not know how many of your members have expressed a feeling of ‘upset’ at my speaking on challenging sexism or how many of them look to you to provide a duty of care or protection from women speaking about oppression, misogyny and discrimination.
What I do know is that many women (and men) who have previously been active in Labour are turning away from the party, so horrified are they by this authoritarian approach to debate and to women defending our rights. Instead, they are forming other organisations where people truly interested in bringing working people together can discuss, debate and move forward.
A report from a member of the Labour Party NEC indicates female membership of the Labour Party is now only 44%. For an organisation that considers itself to be a party of equality, this is frankly shocking.
To assert women’s sex-based rights is not transphobic.
What I would like is an honest and respectful dialogue within the party and the wider labour movement about where the rights of women and trans people converge, where they diverge and where they may conflict. Only by addressing these questions will we be able to formulate resolutions which meet everyone’s needs.
But this was not the theme of the meeting, nor is it what I was asked to speak about.
I am therefore writing this open letter so that you are aware of what is being done in your name.
I will be sending a copy of this letter to other senior figures in the Labour Party including the shadow minister for women & equalities. I will be publishing this open letter (with the ward name redacted) this Friday at 5pm.
Yours faithfully,

Kiri Tunks “