Free Speech for Women at a Free Speech Rally


Women's Rights, Free Speech, Sex-Based Rights, Sex Matters

LWD signatory Esther Giles has been no platformed at a free speech rally  organised today by a coalition of left groups in support of suspended members.

We are asking all those who support free speech to insist that Esther is reinstated as a speaker, and if this doesn’t happen to withdraw from the rally.

Here is Esther’s statement

Nick Rogers, suspended Chair of Tottenham CLP, has withdrawn from the rally and has made this statement in support of Esther.

Labour In Exile, Labour Left Alliance and Labour Against the Witchhunt have also issued a joint statement in support of Esther.

A group of Tottenham CLP members have written this letter to the organisers of the rally.

“We are not going to attend the Stand Up For Labour Party Democracy #StopTheLabourLockout rally because of the purging of Esther Giles from the speakers list under pressure from sectarians, who are determined to silence and drive out people on the left who support women’s rights. Anybody who does attend should challenge the hypocrisy.

The awful irony of no platforming someone persecuted by the Labour Party leadership at a rally meant to oppose that seems to be lost on the organisers.

To persecute those who hold that gender and sex are not the same and that people born biologically female who have lived all their lives as women in a patriarchal society have a distinct experience is unacceptable. Whether born female or male, it is not transphobic to hold that view. To regard it as anathema is wrongheaded and will do huge damage to the left.”

LWD Response to NEC Statement On Women’s Representation

With Women’s Conference deadlines announced and delegations soon to be made, with Scottish Labour MSP selections looming, women members all over the country will be seeking advice from the official Labour Party site. Labour Women’s Declaration working group is dismayed by the NEC out of date statement on All Women Shortlists, women’s officers and minimum quotas for women. It is the text of the NEC statement from 22nd May 2018. 

It is true that Labour had (past tense) a proud record of championing for women. This derived from a materialist understanding of women’s disadvantages within this culture, of the way discrimination works and how socialisation results in women’s and girls’ much lower expectations and ambitions.

The inclusion of self-identified transwomen makes a mockery of all the reasons behind these policies. It destroys affirmative action for women if any male person identifying as female is included in a group whose experience of discrimination is specific and different from that of trans-identifying people. This version of the policy has never been discussed or agreed democratically in the Party. To say that the Party will ‘deal with’ anyone subverting the intention of All Women Shortlists, women’s officers or minimum quotas for women is absurd when it is the Party itself which is subverting that intention.

We do not accept the claim that such policies are consistent with the letter and spirit of the Equality Act 2010, which quite explicitly speaks of the exceptions permitting single-sex provision as a proportionate means of achieving a legitimate aim. Given the aim of building the Party’s empowerment of women in Party rôles and as MPs, it is not hard to see why the exceptions should be used.

We entirely agree that discussions should never take the form of abuse or intimidation. Sadly, the Labour Party has been entirely unwilling to act on any of the hundreds of abusive and intimidatory responses, in meetings and in online Labour forums, towards those who assert the need for women’s rights to be upheld.

The final part of the statement referring to reform not only of the Gender Recognition Act but of the Equality Act 2010 is misleading. It is not Labour Party policy. The 2019 manifesto stated the intention to “Ensure that the single-sex-based exemptions contained in the Equality Act 2010 are understood and fully enforced in service provision.” It was that commitment that helped us to ensure that women did not leave Labour, seeing this as a clear commitment to our rights. 

How is it possible to prevent the subversion of All Women Shortlists and have a policy that anyone can self-identify as a woman? When did it become Labour Party policy to reform the Equality Act 2010, which already protects trans people on the basis of sex as well as for gender reassignment and protects women on the basis of sex? The 2019 manifesto commitment was for the single-sex exceptions in the EA2010 to be “understood and fully enforced in service provision”. We don’t need reform, we need clarity and proper implementation of current law. 

What is the NEC playing at? Surely this is out of date information (published in May 2018) and since superceded by the 2019 Manifesto. It should have been amended and not feature on the Labour Party website as a statement of current policy. It most certainly should not be foregrounded with the current Leader’s photo as some sort of ironic ‘Welcome’ statement, aimed at undermining women’s rights. In a week where Scottish Labour is producing  zipped lists that are important for female representation in politics, it is important that old policy does not remain on the official Labour Party website. We demand that the website is updated to reflect 2019 Manifesto. 



We stand with J K Rowling

It has been difficult to persuade some people, including the Labour Party leadership, to listen to concerns about women’s sex-based issues. The nearly 5,000 signatories of the Labour Women’s Declaration, the women’s pledge signatories of other political parties, and people in many other group and individual contexts, have been patiently working to explain why biological sex matters, and to ensure that women are able to speak about our experiences as a sex, not a ‘gender identity’. We have been ignored, silenced, blocked on Twitter, abused online and in real life. We have not given up.

Then J K Rowling (pictured left), one of the most famous people in the world, began to make clear her support for what we have been saying, culminating in a post on her website published on 10 June 2020. She, too, has experienced an avalanche of abuse, being accused of hatred and treated to misogynistic slurs for merely wishing to promote the safety and dignity of girls and women.

We applaud J K Rowling for so clearly outlining the importance of retaining the legal definition of sex; for her concern for children, especially girls, who find in the idea of transition a way out of discomfort with their bodies or their failure to conform to stereotypes (illusory as that ‘solution’ is); her recognition of the potential impact of transgender ideology on women prisoners and on those who have experienced domestic and sexual abuse; her support for lesbians who are, of course, same-sex not same-‘gender’ attracted (despite attempts by Stonewall and others to redefine homosexuality) ; her recognition of the need to consider sex in many medical conditions. Above all, she champions the right of women to speak about our own material experience as a sex.

In her piece, Rowling mentions the changes being wrought to the definition of ‘woman’ in Scottish legislation. Essentially, the Scottish Government has recently published statutory guidance on the Gender Representation on Public Boards (Scotland) Act 2018. The guidance outlines various ways in which someone can be a woman for the purposes of the Act, including always using female pronouns, or using female names on documents such as utility bills; but then states that no-one can ask for the evidence that the individual fulfils the requirements. Hence, anyone who ‘identifies’ as a woman is now eligible to count towards the intention that women should represent half the members of public boards by the end of 2022. This is despite the vast majority of responses to the Government’s consultation objecting to the proposed re-definition of ‘woman’. It is unsurprising that J K Rowling, along with many of the rest of us, is alarmed by such legal changes.

It is horrifying that so many people in the public eye, both men and women, have responded to her article with abusive messages, with demands that she retract, with extraordinary claims that she has somehow ruined their childhoods, with accusations of her being ill-informed. We are saddened that some of those making such comments are strongly identified with the Labour Party, and are echoing the deeply concerning demands of some Labour members that those supporting organisations that promote women’s interests should be expelled from the Party.

We stand with J K Rowling and hope that Keir Starmer, to whom we have written twice requesting an opportunity to brief him without response, Marsha de Cordova (Shadow Women and Equalities, from whom we have also had no response to our request for a meeting) and others in the shadow cabinet will now recognise that we represent a view that needs to be heard and understood. In the light of all the publicity, across all media, that has ensued from the publication of Rowling’s article, Labour can scarcely dismiss our views as those of some annoying fringe.

We look forward to more signatories on our Declaration and to an invitation from the Labour leadership to discuss the issues we and J K Rowling have laid out.

Thank you, J K Rowling, for ensuring that these key issues cannot be ignored.