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

The Labour Party & Membership Data

Dear people whose job it is to collect & analyse personal data from the membership of the Labour Party,

Labour Women’s Declaration hopes you followed the court hearing on 9 March – Fair Play for Women versus Office for National Statistics – challenging the ONS guidance on how to fill in the sex question in the 2021 Census.  A full judicial review was due to take place this Thursday, 18 March, so that the case could be heard as a matter of priority before census day, but the judge made an interim order instructing the ONS to immediately remove the incorrect guidance on the sex question, saying he was satisfied the campaign group Fair Play for Women was “more likely than not to succeed” on its case regarding the legal definition of “sex”.

Today we can confirm that Fair Play for Women have indeed succeeded and that the ONS has conceded that the proper meaning of sex in the census means sex as recognised by law. The High Court has now ordered  that “What is your sex?” means sex “as recorded on a birth certificate or Gender Recognition Certificate”. The substantive hearing listed for 18 March is vacated and ONS will pay costs of both sides. This is a victory for the women’s movement, and all the women and organisations that got behind the Sex in the Census campaign to ensure women’s sex-based rights are upheld through accurate data collection, including Labour Women’s Declaration.

We were watching to see if there would be any reaction to all this from the Labour Party, since many of us have complained after discovering what you had done with our online membership details. The outcome in the census case demonstrates that collecting clear data on sex and gender identity should be the gold standard, as it gives organisations accurate information about respondents that is important to policy development.

Until a few days ago, members’ online membership cards used the phrase ‘gender identity’ which has now been altered again to ‘gender’. Many women members have been angry about this and have contacted us to say they have complained but received no response. We also note that this issue is being discussed in public forums such as MumsNet and Twitter. We question the right of the party to retrospectively change data given by members without any consultation or permission. 

Membership Details 05.03.2021
Membership Details 10.03.2021
Membership Details 10.03.2021

We would argue that unless a specific question on sex is asked, it is not possible to  know how many women members we have. This is also important in that by the provisions in the Equality Act, there is an equality duty which covers the protected characteristics. Sex is one of them, neither gender nor gender identity are such characteristics. It may also be useful to know how many members wish to identify as having a gender identity, but the way this form is currently phrased, it doesn’t give us that data either. The merging of sex and gender undermines the ability of our data collection systems to elicit the information we need to pursue the equalities agenda.

Membership Renewal Form
Request for Clarification

One member within our networks began emailing the Labour Party’s Equalities office on precisely this subject on 01.07.2019. Although she did manage to get some response within the thread of emails, her last email has as yet, eighteen months later, still not been answered. Redacted copy of her full correspondence can be found here. We are including the following excerpts because we believe the responses she received fully illustrate the confusion and lack of clarity coming from the Labour Party administrative staff on this very important aspect of data collection. To put it bluntly, no one seems able to explain what exactly is meant by the terms in use and how they are being used, let alone understand the impact on the data.

Taken from her communication with Labour Equalities, are the following excerpts beginning with a response she received 2 months after her original email enquiry.

Received from Labour Party: 02 September 2019 
Subject: RE: Monitoring & Data collection on Gender & Sex

Dear xxxxxxx

Thank you for your email dated 1 July and apologies for the delay in getting back to you.

I asked my colleague >>>>>> to provide the best response to the questions you raised in your email. Her response is below:

The “Gender” questions you refer to clearly refer to gender and gender identity so the Party continues to log data on gender/sex. Since around 2006 we have logged data on our membership systems for male, female and other (as well as unknown which is usually used where we have no data as an individual has not completed that part of the application form). All data previously captured has been retained and all new data is still inputted using those categories. During the Democracy LGBT activists said they did not want LGBT data captured on our systems.

I hope this answers your questions.

If you have any more questions further to this email, >>>>>> (CC) will respond when she returns from annual leave.

Best wishes

Head of Equalities, Stakeholders and Community Engagement

The Labour Party

Southside, 105 Victoria Street

London SW1E 6QT

Response to Labour Party: 09 September 2019 
Subject: RE: Monitoring & Data collection on Gender & Sex

Dear ~~~~~~,

Thank you for your reply.

The answers to some of my questions have become conflated, and some of my questions have been missed altogether.

So can I, perhaps, refer you back to my originating email to ****** of 1 July 2019? Could you please have a look at the preamble to my questions to better understand the context for them?

In the interests of clarity, and to avoid any possibility of misunderstanding or misrepresenting the Labour Party’s position on these important issues for women, I have attempted to translate your paragraph of answers into specifics under the six questions in my original email (in bold).

I have also attached a copy of the Gender question to which this Correspondence refers.

  1. What is meant here by ‘Gender’? Specifically, does it mean ‘Gender Identity’?

You reply that you understand gender to mean ‘gender and gender identity’. You then say that ‘the party continues to log data on gender/sex.’ You therefore imply that if somebody of the male sex self-identifies as a woman and ticks that box, that for statistical purposes, the Labour Party will count their sex as female.

2. If it does mean Gender Identity, why doesn’t it say so? Clear definitions are important, especially when we know that in some situations ‘Gender’ is used as a synonym for Sex.

You do not seem to have explained why it says Gender rather than Gender Identity. In many situations Gender is used as a synonym for Sex so this is, at best, misleading.

3. Previously, the Labour Party asked its members whether they were male or female. Is this new Gender question an additional question, or a replacement for the one aimed at determining sex?

You are saying that this is a replacement question for the one that was previously, and clearly, aimed at determining sex.

4. If members have previously declared their sex, has that data been retained?

You have confirmed that the previous data with regard to the sex of members has been retained.

5. If members select just one of the boxes, in three out of the five possibilities to tick, there is no way of knowing whether individuals are female or male. Could you explain how that relates to identifying possible discrimination against or disadvantage to women on the basis on Sex, which like Race and Disability, is a protected characteristic in the 2010 Equality Act?

You have agreed that you have no way of knowing whether individuals are female or male, since a member can complete this form on the basis of either Gender (in the old-fashioned sense as a synonym for sex) or Gender Identity, self-selected. My question pointed to the fact that three boxes, Trans, Non-binary, Other, could be filled in by both sexes. Your answer indicates that in fact the other two boxes, Man and Woman, could also be filled in by either sex. You have not answered my question about the relationship between this data gathering and the identification of discrimination on the basis of sex as per the 2010 Equality Act. However, the implication is that this data could no longer be applied to those purposes.

  1. Has the Labour Party stopped collecting data on Sex?

The Labour Party has stopped collecting data on sex, and has replaced that with data about Gender Identity.

Finally, I was interested to hear that LGBT activists do not want their data captured on Labour Party systems. In that context, why would the membership form ask for Gender details that include Trans and Non-Binary?

I would be grateful if you could confirm that my summary of your reply is as you intended. Or perhaps you could provide some further clarification?

I look forward to hearing from you or >>>>>> at your convenience.

With best regards,

xxxxxx

………………………………..……………………………………………………..

Replace Gender with Sex

We know that many women have complained about the way that a gender identity has been allocated to them by whoever is administering data collection in the Labour Party, and we find it insulting that there has been a complete lack of engagement with these members to correct the errors and issues that have been clearly pointed out. That the word ‘identity’ has been deleted from the online membership card within days of the ONS judgement is remarkable, given the lack of response to women members.  Does it really take expensive court cases for the concerns of our members to be taken seriously? Messing about with membership details and using the language used to erase sex as a category should not be being undertaken lightly and without consultation. A full understanding is needed of the consequences  of such meddling for data collection, security and the impact on our equalities duties and work.

Since the last email from this member in September 2019, the Labour Party Manifesto pledged to deepen the understanding of and enforce the provisions of the Equality Act 2010, but we can see no evidence that this is being done, rather, the reverse.

Labour Manifesto 2019

We draw your attention to the following extract from the Welsh Government’s commitment to data collection in it’s recent Manifesto.

“Welsh Labour will ensure that data collection by Welsh Government and other public bodies use the characteristics protected under the Equality Act 2010: sex, race, age, disability, marriage and civil partnership, religion or belief, sexual orientation, pregnancy or maternity, and gender reassignment. This will ensure that it is possible to measure how successful Welsh Government is in supporting public bodies to meet their duty to ensure equality of outcomes for all.”

We would also like to address the issue of the collection of data from other protected groups. We understand that the policy not to collect data on the basis of sexuality was made after consultation with only one group – LGBTQI+ Labour who cited security concerns. This approach was questioned by many lesbians and gay men at the time, as many organisations have collected such information over many years without any issues. As a result, LGBTQI+ Labour remain the only group available to be consulted around LGBT+ issues and the information and data from our members is missing. This group is an affiliated lobby group, not a members’ group and cannot be said to speak for lesbian and gay members nor to be allowed to replace direct communication with our members. Lesbian and gay members are also protected under the Equality Act, as are those who are ‘gender reassigned’. If the party is to exercise its duties and aspirations in regard to equality it is vital that the appropriate data is collected and that members are directly consulted.

We hope, therefore, that you will consider all the points we have raised and ensure the development of comprehensive data collection which does not omit groups who experience very real and specific discrimination. A policy is urgently needed which is based on the well-defined, legally-established characteristics in the 2010 Equality Act, which will update the Party’s systems and governance in the light of that Act and that would also be consonant with the aspirations and principles which we believe lie at the heart of 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 “

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