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 This week she was told that her invitation to speak had been rescinded because of her connection to Woman’s Place UK.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 “

Toilet provision: consultation response

The Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government launched a consultation over toilet provision for men and women. This is Labour Women’s Declaration’s response:

1. The key points in the call for evidence

“[T]here needs to be proper provision of gender-specific toilets for both men and women, with a clear steer in building standards guidance” We would be in full agreement with this statement if the word ‘sex’ were used rather than ‘gender’, as this term is undefined and generally conflated with ‘gender identity’, the claimed non-observable, non-testable, sense of being a man or woman despite one’s biology indicating otherwise. ‘Sex’ is the protected characteristic, and we want to see single-sex provision as a matter of right.
“The Equality Act provides that sex, age, disability and gender reassignment are protected characteristics. This does not mean that gender-specific toilets should be replaced with gender-neutral toilets. But there should be balanced consideration of how the needs of all those with protected characteristics should be considered, based on the mix of the population and customer demand.” We could not agree more with this statement and regard it as key to the provision of facilities in a respectful and considerate manner.

2. Gender-neutral toilets

As stated in the call for evidence, where existing provision is re-labelled as gender neutral (meaning ‘open to anyone’), women are placed at a significant disadvantage. Men then have access not only to all the cubicles but also to the urinals, whereas women, already disadvantaged in terms of the number of available facilities, now have to share their cubicles with men.
Many women are deeply uncomfortable using facilities where they may be observed by men, or vulnerable to men’s comments or inappropriate actions. Being heard using the lavatory can be a source of serious embarrassment, most particularly when men are present. Additionally, the specific female needs noted in point 3. require a space not available to men.
This discomfort and embarrassment is very much magnified in the case of adolescent girls contending with adolescent boys. Toilets are often a space for girls to meet, put on make-up, discuss the problems of menstruation, and, most importantly, get away from harassment by boys and older males. Gender neutral/open to anyone facilities reduce not only girls’ sense of safety, but their actual objective safety.
Quite a large number of men suffer from bladder shyness and may find it difficult to micturate with women around.
The Equality Act 2010, Schedule 3, Part 7, Paragraph 27, sets out conditions under which single and separate sex exceptions can apply. Among these is condition 6b:
“the circumstances are such that a person of one sex might reasonably object to the presence of a person of the opposite sex.” This applies to the provision of single-sex toilet provision.

3. Specific female needs

It is well-known that women are far more likely than men to suffer from urinary incontinence, as well as needing provision to manage menstruation. Waiting in a queue is an excruciating experience for a woman suffering from urinary incontinence.
Menstruating women may need to use washbasins in open areas to wash mooncups, rinse out stained underwear, or to wash bloody hands. These needs can only be properly addressed by sex-specific toilets or totally contained units where the washbasin is included inside a cubicle with walls fully enclosing the space, from floor to ceiling.
This discomfort and embarrassment is very much magnified in the case of adolescent girls contending with adolescent boys. Toilets are often a space for girls to meet, put on make-up, discuss the problems of menstruation, and, most importantly, get away from harassment by boys and older males. Gender neutral/open to anyone facilities reduce not only girls’ sense of safety, but their actual objective safety.

4. Ratio of female to male toilets

It has often been assumed that providing the same floor space for male toilets as for female toilets means that there is equal provision. This is very far from the case.
Firstly, of course, male urinals take up less space than cubicles and so more men can be provided for in the same space.
Secondly, women need longer in a cubicle than men need at a urinal, given the much greater clothing removal required.
It is generally estimated that there need to be 50% more female toilets (cubicles) than male (urinals plus cubicles).

5. Accessible toilets and gender neutral toilets

Progress has been made over recent decades in the provision of genuinely accessible toilets for people with various disabilities and needs. This is greatly to be welcomed. It is, however, the case that there are still not enough facilities useable and well set-up for all who require it, to allow for a very wide range of needs that cannot be accommodated in general lavatory provision.
The suggestion in some quarters that such facilities should be promoted as available to those who are trans-identified, and not wishing to use/objecting to toilets provided by sex (regarding ‘gender identity’ as the defining feature), is deeply concerning. There is good reason to include, where space permits, a gender neutral/open to all toilet area in addition to male, female and disabled facilities, and it is to be hoped that new public access buildings will build such provision in as a matter of course. It must not be conflated with accessible/Changing Places toilets.
Where, for reasons of size and space, there is limited toilet provision that cannot be differentiated into male, female, open to all, and disabled access, a single toilet area must be created of cubicles containing washbasins and with floor to ceiling divisions, with perhaps a gap under the door so that it can be identified if someone has collapsed. There should be one providing enough space for a carer to help a disabled person as well as accessible to wheelchair users..

6. Public sector equality duty

The PSED is part of the Equality Act 2010. It has three main elements, each of which need to be considered in the provision of toilets.
The first element, the duty to eliminate discrimination, harassment, victimisation etc, requires provision that takes account of the needs of people according to sex (and in this context particularly women), sexual orientation, those covered by pregnancy and maternity, age, disability, race, religion and belief, age, marriage and civil partnership and those for whom the category of ‘gender reassignment’ applies, as well as the other protected characteristics .
Protection for religion and belief requires single-sex provision for, particularly, Orthodox Jews and Muslims. Provision by self-identified ‘gender’ or solely with gender neutral/open to anyone toilets means that such people, particularly women, will be unable to use public toilet provision.
The protection for pregnancy and maternity requires both that women’s toilets are suitable and that either within women’s toilets or in an accessible toilet there is space and equipment to enable baby-changing. While not covered by this provision, it is to be hoped that such space, where available within a women’s toilet area, is also available for men who may be caring for a baby.
Much of the above also relates to the second point, to advance equality of opportunity between persons who share a relevant protected characteristic and persons who do not share it. Provision that is inadequate for women, for particular religious groups, etc is not advancing equality of opportunity and may in fact be reinstating the ‘urinary leash’ meaning that members of such groups are unable to go far from home.
The third point is the requirement to foster good relations between persons who share a relevant protected characteristic and persons who do not share it. One of the particular problems that has arisen through the conversion of so many toilets to ‘gender neutral’, or where there has been insistence that the toilets are provided for a ‘gender’ rather than a sex, is that women have become anxious and hostile to anyone who might be a man in what had previously been single-sex provision. This not only has created tension between women (protected characteristic of sex) and transwomen (protected characteristic of gender reassignment), but has also led to potential conflict between some women and those women, particularly lesbians (protected characteristic of sexual orientation), with what is perceived as a more masculine appearance. Thus it is clear that converting many toilets to gender neutral/open to anyone provision has worked against the requirement to foster good relations.

7. Provision of public toilets by local authorities

Since 2010, there has been a steady reduction in the grant income from central government to local government, a 38% reduction between 2009-10 and 2018-19. As there are also caps on how much county, district, borough and unitary authorities can increase their council tax precept, in many areas where there are parish councils, they are being asked to take on the management and maintenance of public toilets in their areas, previously provided by a district council.
This entails raising parish precept, which some small parish councils are most reluctant to do. Also, many parish councils do not have more than one or two employees (the parish clerk and perhaps one other) and may be daunted by the obligations of employing cleaning and maintenance staff to run public toilets. and, as a result, in some areas there is a chance that existing toilets will be closed. Those living in such areas are seriously concerned about potential closures. Serious consideration needs to be given to national funding for such public provision.

8. An international human rights issue

The UN’s Sustainable Development Goals cover the need for separate toilets for women and girls explicitly at 6.2, which includes the key phrase “paying special attention to the needs of women and girls”. It would indeed be shameful if the UK lagged behind the ambitions of the UN for provision internationally, or, rather, rolled back on the provision that has existed until the relatively recent move toward gender neutral provision.

REFERENCES

Clara Greed Expert exposition on the requirements for public toilets for women

Nowhere to Go. Includes an excellent range of resources concerning toilet provision for those with disabilities

Climacteric. The prevalence of urinary incontinence

Fair Play for Women. Toilets and changing rooms

 

No-platforming and the so-called Left: a speech by Esther Giles

Esther Giles, who was due to appear at last weekend’s Labour Lockout event but was no-platformed, spoke today at Labour Against the Witchhunt’s Building the Campaign for Free Speech event. This is the text of her speech:

No-Platforming and the so-called Left: The Supposed “Right of Intolerance”

“I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.”

This quote, wrongly attributed to Voltaire, was actually written by (would you believe it) a woman, Beatrice Evelyn Hall in a book published in 1906 which she wrote about Voltaire. And who, of course wrote under a pseudonym because she was a woman.  And, yes, I have met people who will not read anything written by a woman.

Here’s something that Voltaire did write once, in his 1763 Treatise on Toleration:

“The supposed right of intolerance is absurd and barbaric. It is the right of the tiger; nay, it is far worse, for tigers do but tear in order to have food, while we rend each other for paragraphs.”

I am going to talk to you about:
* My recent no-platforming experience and the fall-out;
* Why we must fight for free speech and thought; and
* The new no-platforming

No-Platforming: the Antithesis of Free Speech

Last Sunday evening there was an event about democracy and free speech. This event was put on in defence of CLP officers suspended for disobeying the diktats of Labour’s General Secretary by allowing members to debate and/or vote on topics he had forbidden.  The organisers  of this event no-platformed someone (me) because someone had lobbied one or more of the speakers. One of the speakers (who is a prospective candidate for Mayor of Liverpool) told the organisers that they would withdraw unless I was removed from the platform. The organisers feared that her withdrawal would spark further speakers pulling out and asked me to withdraw for fear of the whole event collapsing. I pulled out. The event went ahead using a webinar with the chat disabled. The organising group knew that their decision to no-platform one of the advertised speakers would be a controversial one and seen as hypocritical, but they felt either that the event was more important than the principle (of free speech), or  that what I was accused of genuinely made me a “persona non grata”. I think that the organising committee was divided on the issue. It has certainly, in the fall-out, revealed deep rifts in groups and campaigns. Importantly, when this happens to you, you will find out how people and groups respond to the white-hot flame of the witchhunt. Some melt away like snowflakes. Some swivel round and stand by the side of the witch-hunters. Some run for shelter, and some stand in the flames by your side (including people you have never met before) and become an even more valuable gold.

I want to put this no-platforming in the context of free speech, and explore what no-platforming has now become.

Why Free Speech?

What does free speech do? It shines a light on bad arguments and hate, rather than letting it fester in dark corners- for example, arguably, the BNP collapsed following Nick Griffin’s appearance on Question Time in 2009. Free speech allows debate when there is disagreement about ideas and ideologies. It helps us to find the truth by dialectic. It promotes trust, honesty and respect where differing points of view are listened to. It requires confidence to challenge and that the challenge is respectful. It requires time to think and debate.

That’s why, in the Labour Party (for those of us who still have meetings or can go to them), we have the process of motions submitted in good time, and time allotted for debate in a comradely fashion

The ability to debate competing viewpoints is one of the foundations of democratic society. If dissent is seen as offence, and is then elevated to hate speech, the consequences for democracy are alarming- and that is what I think we are seeing now.

What are the limits on free speech? It should not (in my view) promote acts of violence. If someone says something a reasonable person would believe to be “something so appalling that it should not be said”, they should be called out. We should refuse and reject the rhetoric of violence.

Yesterday, somebody who has been posting smears against me on social media for the past two years justified their smearing (and my no-platforming) by saying: “You are standing with people who really have been unfairly smeared and are completely innocent of all accusations”. This person was saying that they were the arbiter of free speech and that anyone with whom they did not agree should be silenced.

The New No-Platforming

“No-platforming” used to be a tactic used against self-proclaimed fascists – the National Front or the EDL – and Holocaust-deniers. But today it is particularly being used to prevent the expression of feminist arguments critical of the sex industry and of some demands made by trans activists. The feminists who hold these views (many second wave feminists and other sisters and brothers) have never advocated or engaged in violence against any group of people. But they are called transphobes and whorephobes: it is argued that the mere presence of anyone said to hold those views is a threat to a protected minority group’s safety. And so comrades are prevented from speaking by the opinions of the ideological thugs (in my case it seems to have been the LGBT+ group, though I cannot be sure). And we know, of course, that critics of Israel suffer the same fate. As someone said to me this week “attacks on free speech and thought about Israel come from without, but the gender debate results in the left eating itself.”

This new no-platforming approach results in people sometimes being disgraced and defamed for the rest of their lives for one comment or incident taken out of context- or even for just having been accused of something. Universities (like the Labour Party) appear to be a mecca for no-platformers – which doesn’t augur well for the future if we don’t address it now. The social justice warriors in today’s universities seem to wage war to out-compete each other in their successes in no-platforming people. There is a growing list of people who have been “no-platformed” and we are hearing about some of them today – including Ken Loach this week. The Union of Jewish Students and the Board of Deputies called for his no-platforming because he had repeatedly been accused of, and been an apologist for antisemitism. Did you see what they did there? They said he should be no-platformed because he had been accused of something. And the event had nothing to do with what he was being accused of. This is another feature of the New No-Platforming. Anyway, the College (unlike the Labour Party and the Organising Group of the “Stand up for Democracy Event”) stood firm and said that “no-platforming is not… the way to pursue the goals of a free and open academic community (substitute Labour Party community)”. The event went ahead. Hurrah for St. Peter’s College.

Again at Oxford University this week, John McDonnell has been urged by the Labour Society not to share a platform with a woman they call a “known transphobe”, Professor Selina Todd, who writes and teaches about class, inequality, working-class history, feminism and women’s lives. The attackers say “the content of the event is irrelevant to the issue at hand, namely that McDonnell is lending his social and political capital to a person whose views actively harm the trans community”. As one of the twitter comments says: “I thought universities were about debate not censorship”.

So the defamation escalates. First you call someone a ‘transphobe’. Then next time you can call them a ‘known transphobe’. Next, when you’ve called them a known transphobe often enough, you become a  ‘notorious transphobe’. All without saying a single word, and just because your attackers say it and say it again and again.

So, individuals are being no-platformed not because of what they actually say, but because of what people think they think- because they are not ideologically pure according to a particular group with influence. And at the same time other people are blackmailed into withdrawing or requiring withdrawal (of the heretic) for fear of guilt by association and worse.

Conclusion

What does this mean then? It means that if we allow them to, those groups with influence control the narrative. They control what people say, and thus begin to control what people think. It means that people walk and think in fear that they might say something that will damage them for the rest of their lives. It means that ideas cannot be debated in public.

These ideas now include:
*Palestine
* Israel as an apartheid state founded on murder and exile
* Women’s rights (has anyone EVER been no-platformed for wanting to debate trans rights?)
* Class analysis (talk about IdPol as much as you like)

It means that people are not allowed to think and have a say unless within the agreed political narrative. It means that democracy dies.

And remember. First they came for the TERFs and then the so-called antisemites. And next they will come for you.

Free Speech and Democracy for All. Solidarity

Changing sex to gender identity in data collection

The Chief Statistician of Scotland is consulting on erasing sex as a category for data collection for all public organisations. Except in a few cases, he is proposing that ‘gender identity’ replaces sex.
As Labour Women’s Declaration, we recognise that women and girls are subject to discrimination and oppression based on their sex.
This has huge implications for the lives of women and girls. Sex is a key determinant from the day we are born as female and live out our lives. How we fare in the fields of education and work, what we are paid, what pensions we receive is influenced by our sex. Health, social care, law, transport, design of cities: there isn’t a policy area where sex can be ignored. We are witnessing a roll back in women’s rights as a result of the pandemic; with women more likely to lose their jobs, or forced into part time work to try to manage childcare and other caring responsibilities. We know there is an issue with regard to young women and girls not participating in physical activity, but difficult to see how we change that if we cease to measure the data on the basis of sex. Women experience discrimination because of how society treats us on the basis of our sex.
We cannot talk about male violence against women if we cannot disaggregate data on the basis of sex. For example, Police Scotland now collates data on the basis of self-declared gender, so we cannot be sure if crimes that are recorded as being committed by women are actually by women or by men who claim to be the gender of women. The impact on female crime statistics may already be skewed. We know, thanks to robust data collection, that women commit far few sexual violence offences than men. It will not take many men declaring themselves to be female to dramatically alter those statistics and render them meaningless.
Sex is an objective, unchanging category. People cannot change sex. It is a defining characteristic of human beings. Sex is a word that is understood universally. Sex is defined in the Equality Act 210.
There is no such clear definition proposed for ‘gender identity’. It is a subjective feeling. A feeling of being a man or a woman, but no-one can explain what those feelings are without resorting to outdated and offensive stereoytpes, where being a woman amounts to no more than liking the colour pink, being quiet and obedient. There is no evidence gender identity exists beyond a belief some people have, and equally, many of us don’t. It is more akin to the category of religion. As with religious belief, it may well be a category that the state wishes to collect information about, but no reason as to why it should replace sex.
No evidence has been presented as to why this change is being made and what benefits will accrue from erasing sex as a category. The award-winning book “Invisible Women” by Caroline Criado-Perez highlighted the myriad of ways women are discriminated against. We face more risk of death in a car crash as seatbelts are designed with the average man’s body in mind, safety wear doesn’t fit as it designed for male bodies. Medical trials are conducted with men, so we don’t know what effect new procedures or drugs will have on women.
When we have the evidence that not collecting data on the basis of sex has such huge effects on women it is utterly incomprehensible that the proposal is now to get rid of the category altogether.
We ask that the Scottish Government abides by the Eurostat guidelines regarding data collection, which states that sex is a vital category. Without this, we will not be able to do any comparable studies with other European states.
There is no evidence from researchers, data users or the public that the erosion of sex as a category is desirable. There is no impact assessment on what impact the erosion of sex will have on future data collection. No women’s groups were consulted on the proposed change.
Every elected member should be receiving a copy of The Political Erasure of Sex by Lucy Mackenzie and Jane Clare Jones which is ”an overarching project which aims to document the process of policy capture in our public institutions, and how it is impacting the recognition and recording of biological sex in public policy, law, language, and data-collection.” We hope you will take time to read it.
We ask that you:
1) Support the retention of sex as a category in all data collection, including the census in 2022.
2) Any changes are subject to impact assessments
3) Any consultation on change is open and wide ranging and includes women as key stakeholders

Yours sincerely,

Labour Women’s Declaration