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)

And answers there came none…publication of our private letters to Mayor which remain unanswered…

Sadiq – “Do you support the single-sex exceptions in the 2010 Equality Act or do you wish to repeal them?” This is the question which Joan Smith asked you in private letters last year, but you failed to respond, in spite of her position as the independent Chair of your VAWG Board, in which role she was charged with leading independent scrutiny of your performance towards ending VAWG.

We are now publishing our own letters to you so that it cannot be said that you were not aware of our safeguarding concerns. As Labour Peer Philip Hunt warned in July 2020 “When the eventual public enquiry happens, as inevitably it will, there will be many organisations and leaders who will have to face up to the consequences  of their inaction.”

Thousands of Labour party members who have signed our Declaration are also waiting for your answers to our letters to you and your Deputy Mayors, dating back over 2 years. We believe you are publicly promoting views which will have a chilling effect on women, and on lesbians in particular. We have repeatedly asked to meet you and your colleagues so that you can at least understand our concerns. We are not asking you to agree with us, but to hear us.

Thread of emails send by Labour Women’s Declaration supporters to Sadiq Khan, Mayor of London between 24 July 2019 and 20 August 2021.

Subject: Fwd: Let’s talk about women’s rights – response needed in the light of today’s Times report about the replacement of Joan Smith as independent chair by a GLA official. 

Date: 19 August 2021 at 12:20:31 BST

To: Sadiq.khan@london.gov.uk, Joanne McCartney <joanne.mccartney@london.gov.uk>, sophie.linden@london.gov.uk

Cc: buckk@parliament.uk, len.duvall@london.gov.uk, London Labour Women’s Declaration <londonlabourwomensdeclaration@gmail.com>

Dear Sadiq Khan

Please see below for the email sent to you by London Labour Women’s Declaration on 11th January this year, 2021, signed by over 60 Labour party members including councillors and elected officers. It received neither reply nor acknowledgement. It refers to an earlier letter sent in July 2019 which received a patronising single sentence reply from one of your aides in November 2019 and which did not address a single one of our questions.

We read today in the Times that you have still not even responded to a similar private letter from Joan Smith sent last year, despite her years of voluntary service as your VAWG Board Chair.

All we are asking for is for women to be heard, and for you to reassure us and the women’s sector that you fully support the single-sex exceptions in Labour EA2010, and reinforced in Labour’s 2019 Manifesto. We also need you to understand that most lesbians and many gay men do not feel represented by Stonewall, by the LGBTQ+ acronym, or Pride initiatives. You don’t have to agree with our positions, but by refusing to listen, at first hand to those of us who represent the thousands of signatories to the Labour Women’s Declaration,  you risk falling behind the curve in terms of safeguarding, women’s and gay and lesbian rights, and you do no service either to the needs of people identifying as transgender. You also risk further electoral damage to the Labour Party.

And as for restructuring your Boards to replace independent Chairs with County Hall officials, well that speaks for itself.

Please could you reply to our letter of 11.01.21 below?

Thank you

Ceri Williams

for London Labour Women’s Declaration, and Labour Women’s Declaration Working Group.

From: “London Labour Women’s Declaration” <londonlabourwomensdeclaration@gmail.com>

Subject: Let’s talk about women’s rights

Date: 11 January 2021 at 10:18:41 GMT

To: sadiq.khan@london.gov.uk

Cc: joanne.mccartney@london.gov.uk, Sophie.linden@london.gov.uk, Len.duvall@london.gov.uk, buckk@parliament.uk

Dear Sadiq Khan,

We’re London Labour Party activists and supporters of the Labour Women’s Declaration who are very concerned about your current stance on women’s sex-based rights.

Given recent developments, including the High Court judgement against the Tavistock GIDS clinic, recent Twitter attacks on Labour councillors in Camden and Merton, and the upcoming mayoral election, we would like to meet with you and/or one of the Deputy Mayors to discuss women’s rights and freedoms.  (We emailed you in July 2019 asking for a meeting and your Senior Policy Officer replied in November 2019.  However he didn’t address any of the questions we raised, so we still really need a meeting).

One reason for our concern is your frequent statements that “transwomen are women”. There is a conflict of rights between women and transwomen which is denied by this simplistic slogan and, given the GLA’s funding role, your words have a chilling effect on women’s organisations in London. We are asking for two assurances – that organisations supporting women in London will not be penalised for expressing a different view, and that you continue to support the single-sex exceptions in the 2010 Equality Act.

The 2019 Labour manifesto stated that the single-sex exceptions must be “understood and enforced in service provision”, not least because they also intersect with other protected categories such as that of religion, sexual orientation and belief.

The current government has adopted a correctly cautious approach to reform of the GRA and more discerning guidelines on PSHE in schools, saying schools must avoid organisations and materials “that suggest to a child that their non-compliance with gender stereotypes means that either their personality or their body is wrong and in need of changing” (DFE guidance Sept 2020).

Despite the government doing the right thing on this issue, we know that women are better off under Labour, and we want to be able to campaign effectively for the Labour Party – and for you as Mayor.

Your current stance is losing the support of Labour Party members in London, not to mention voters on the (virtual) doorstep who are increasingly speaking out against the sexism, homophobia and abandonment of safeguarding inherent in gender ideology.

We look forward to meeting with you or one of your deputies to discuss our concerns and find workable solutions.

Yours sincerely,

Ceri Williams

Tottenham CLP
, London Labour Women’s Declaration representative on behalf of:

(66 names of Labour Party members in London were given here, including Councillors, women’s officers, CLP and branch chairs )

(Many more of us are unable to sign this letter due to the fact that those who raise concerns about sex-based rights have suffered abuse including threatening letters to their employers from gender identity activists. You can find our names and comments among others on the Labour Women’s Declaration petition.)

This January 2021 letter above received neither acknowledgement nor reply, despite follow up reminders.

Copy of letter sent 24.07.19 – which received this derisory reply from an aide on 11.09.19
“Dear (name redacted)
Thank you for your email to the Mayor of London regarding his position on reforms to the Gender Recognition Act 2004.

The Mayor has made his position on reform clear. The Mayor supports reform of the Gender Recognition Act as it is now outdated and reform is a key step in addressing the marginalisation of trans and non-binary communities, by allowing them to more easily gain legal recognition of their gender identity.

The United Kingdom is currently lagging behind the progress made by countries around the world in terms of legal equality for trans and non-binary people. Changing the law would bring us in line with the standard already set by Ireland, Denmark and Norway, whilst transforming the lives of trans and non-binary people.

Yours sincerely

Rob Downey
Senior Policy Officer
Equality and Fairness Team”

 

“24.07.19

Dear Sadiq Khan (cc Joanne McCartney)

We are writing this private letter to you, as London Labour Party members, to express our surprise and concern that you are a signatory to a letter from four male mayors to Penny Mordaunt[1] which urges the Government to speed up proposed changes to the 2004 Gender Recognition Act. As active Labour Party members from constituencies across London we would like to request a meeting with you to explain our profound concerns about Sex Self-ID . Many feminists socialists, lesbians and gay men like us feel they are no longer represented by organisations such as the LGBT Foundation, Stonewall, or LGBT Labour. We are growing in number as more and more people wake up to the dangers of Self-ID.  In some CLPs we are the majority. It may be that you continue to disagree with our point of view but we hope that you will reserve judgement until you have listened to our evidence and arguments.

We have watched the Twitter storm following the publication of an open response to Andy Burnham from Cathy Devine which expresses the deep disquiet that your joint letter has triggered among, mostly, but not solely, women in London and across the country. Rather than reiterate the content of her open letter, we will assume that you have noted the issues she raised and are keen to hear what is causing all this concern amongst the very comrades who were active against Section 28 and for the protection of women from male violence.

Among the many points of disagreement we have with the letter you signed is that it claims that the provisions outlined in the Equality Act will not change. This cannot be right as the very definition of sex will be eroded if the plans go ahead. If a fully male-bodied person can say they are a woman (i.e. member of the female sex class) then the protected characteristic of ‘sex’ has no meaning. If biological sex is irrelevant and a female bodied transman or a male-bodied transwoman can call themselves gay or lesbian respectively, then the protected category of sexual orientation becomes meaningless. What’s more, given the very widely drawn concept of ‘trans’ as set out by Stonewall[2] it would be very difficult to know what criteria would be used under the proposed policy.

The 2017 Labour Party Manifesto gives a clear commitment to ‘gender audit all policy and legislation for its impact on women before implementation’ and yet this commitment appears to have been brushed aside or forgotten. This is why we would welcome the opportunity for some of the many Labour Party members, academics, scientists, equalities specialists and lawyers amongst us, to meet with you to discuss our valid concerns about the poorly articulated explanations of what constitutes a gender identity as opposed to sex. We are troubled about the way in which discussing girls and women’s sex-based rights is being viewed as transphobic; about the fact that 75% of the huge increase in children referred to the Tavistock clinic for gender dysphoria are girls who would more than likely grow up to be lesbians. We are alarmed by the growing disquiet among clinical experts that children may be being misdiagnosed as transgender[3] and that the hormones and puberty blockers being prescribed cause lifelong harms[4]. We are worried that the collection of data on aspects of social and economic life such as health, pay equity between the sexes or crime rates will become skewed with serious impacts on provision. We are uneasy about safeguarding for often vulnerable women and girls.

From your response to this highly contested issue, we surmise that you haven’t directly heard from feminists, lesbians, gay men and transsexuals in the Labour party who are opposed to Sex Self-ID. It’s been hard to speak up due to the abuse and accusations of transphobia that tend to follow any questioning of the proposals. But we are many, from all ages and backgrounds and feel that you need to hear our voices.

We are keen to convene a meeting with you as soon as possible to offer a different perspective to that which has been provided by organisations such as Stonewall, Mermaids, Gendered Intelligence, London Pride etc whose extensive access to government and the GLA have enabled them to be highly influential in policy-making in this area. We do not ask you to accept everything we say, but we do hope that you will listen to alternative voices from within the Labour Party in London with regard to this highly contentious issue. You may feel that this issue is not within your remit, but having signed the Mayors’ letter, you have put yourself in a public position which we believe is not backed up by a growing body of evidence. As Labour members about to hit the doorsteps possibly for a General Election, and definitely for the mayoral election, we would like to feel that you have given our views at least a hearing.

We look forward to hearing from your office with possible dates for a meeting.

Yours sincerely

50 signatories are given below, out of whom a small number will form a working group to meet with you”

(Names removed to protect signatories from bullying. As with all our letters to the Mayor, they included Councillors, and CLP officers from constituencies across London)

 

[1] https://www.theguardian.com/society/2019/jul/18/labour-mayors-urge-government-to-speed-up-gender-law-changes-england-wales

[2] ‘Trans people may describe themselves using one or more of a wide variety of terms, including (but not limited to) transgender, transsexual, gender-queer (GQ), gender-fluid, non-binary, gender-variant, crossdresser, genderless, agender, nongender, third gender, bi-gender, trans man, trans woman, trans masculine, trans feminine and neutrois’

[3] https://medium.com/@kirstyentwistle/an-open-letter-to-dr-polly-carmichael-from-a-former-gids-clinician-53c541276b8d

[4] https://blogs.bmj.com/bmjebmspotlight/2019/02/25/gender-affirming-hormone-in-children-and-adolescents-evidence-review/?fbclid=IwAR38DNSELZ9nbdh8-sHstf9a-aSEsKL7VPl_iCCMNmbYGAnENvhgR2pdqB4

LWD Response to Labour Representation Committee statement of 13.08.21

The Labour Representation Committee (LRC) claims to be “preparing the labour movement for power”.  We are only too desperate to have a potential government that could make a real difference to the lives of all those so badly hurt by the policies of the Conservatives.  It was therefore surprising to find that LRC’s latest target is the Labour Women’s Declaration (LWD), a set of seven points that build on the past commitment of the Labour Party to opposing discrimination of all sorts, including against women, and promoting women’s rights in work and public life. We echo the commitment in Labour’s own manifesto that “the single-sex exemptions contained in the Equality Act 2010 are understood and fully enforced in service provision.”

It is worth noting that the LRC’s article begins by claiming that the LWD developed in the run-up to the recent Labour Women’s Conference.  The writer has clearly failed to check for any facts, since LWD was launched in November 2019 with 300 founder signatories (including many elected party officers and politicians), rapidly gained thousands more and is now approaching 7,000 signatures – people who have been committed to helping Labour into government, but are now disillusioned and distressed about how regressive attitudes to women, spreading throughout society, are embedding within the Labour Party we have supported and want to support.

The statement that LWD “counterpose[s] what they call ‘sex based rights’ to rights for all women including trans women” makes immediately clear that this is written by people who subscribe to the belief that sex no longer matters (often expressed as the mantra “trans women are women”), and who are unaware that the Equality Act 2010 refers to sex and the rights of those who come under that protected characteristic which, it makes clear, is biological.  Both gender reassignment and sex are protected in law.  LWD was established to defend and promote women’s sex-based rights; other groups exist to champion the rights of trans people.

They claim that the oppression of women derives not from biology but “from (anti-)social factors”.  How the writer(s) imagine women experience ourselves within these anti-social factors remains a mystery, but clearly they are unaware of the research on how babies are treated differently according to whether they are male or female, and the experience of girls and women from those early days through to old age seems to be irrelevant to them.  Is it not biology that leads to the harassment of girls as they enter puberty?  Do LRC really believe that sex-selective abortion and FGM are nothing to do with biology?  The later reference to ‘gender-based’ violence once again makes the key factor of biological sex invisible.

Like all decent socialists, we support the rights of people with DSDs (‘intersex’ conditions) and people who describe themselves as trans or non-binary, to live free from discrimination and harassment. But our declaration addresses women’s sex-based rights.   One might have hoped that LRC would recognise the “appalling violence at home and on the streets and discrimination at work” suffered by women, rather than suggesting that it is trans-identified people who are the sole targets.

There was a crashing sound of jaws hitting the ground when people read that the Labour movement has a ‘proud history’ of ‘enabling members to self-identify whether that is being black, disabled, LGBT+ or women’.  Of course, if LRC really is happy for everyone to be able to demand that they be treated according to whatever ‘identity’ they decide to present, there would be little point in any of the anti-discrimination legislation that Labour has previously worked so hard to establish.

As for the statement of support for challenging “repressive gender stereotypes”, we can only wish the LRC had some awareness of the fact that actual feminists have, since the 1970s, put the work of dismantling gender stereotypes at the centre of our politics. The notion that this depends on a “social, rather than a medical, model of gender recognition” is ludicrous.

The Equality Act 2010 recognises that there can be conflicts of rights , even though LRC apparently believes there are none. It is not a case of not wanting “to encounter trans people in my designated space” but of recognising the needs of women that are clearly outlined in the EA.  The failure, at the very least, to recognise the need for trauma-informed services – such as domestic abuse refuges being women-only – indicates an ill-informed approach.  We see no evidence that the LRC have engaged with actual examples and evidence relating to conflicts of rights in the places where sex, and single-sex provision, matters: in prisons, in refuges, in sports, in intimate healthcare, in sleeping and changing accommodation, and in the collection of unambiguous data, for instance. Simply asserting that “there is no contradiction” is polarising this discussion: to move on, we need a sensible, evidence-based and respectful examination of the evidence and arguments, so that we can address them and reach resolutions which protect everyone.

To claim that the LWD is ‘out of step’ and that our seven principles fail to “combat all forms of oppression and fight for a society for the Many not the Few” means that the writers of the LRC statement really know remarkably little about women’s oppression in society, the issues that the Declaration attempts to address – or that women are, in fact, the Many.

However, we must thank LRC for one thing – they have made more people aware of LWD and signature numbers are growing.

TLDR?  See our tweet response to the LRC statement, and note the ratios.

Ratioed

 

 

Defining ‘Shared Socialist Values’

In early February of this year, Labour Women Leading put out this invitation through their networks: “We are inviting any sister who would like to be considered as a candidate for the [Labour Party National Women’s Committee CLP] slate to let us know…LWL is working with sisters from other Labour left organisations (the Centre Left Grassroots Alliance) to produce a united left slate.”

But it stipulated in its criteria for selection that, amongst other (reasonable) features, applicants should be guided by “shared socialist values”, including: “LGBTQ+ rights – we support the right of trans people to self identify”

How did the right of trans people to self-identify become the one thing that epitomises ‘LGBTQ+ rights’? What happened to lesbians, gay men and bisexuals? How did self-identification become a ‘shared socialist value’, of relevance to the selection process? How did such a concept, entirely divorced from the materialist basis of socialism, enter into a selection process for women to become part of the National Women’s Committee?  To regard support for self-identification of ‘gender’ as a requirement for selection appears to demand that any candidate must accept the anti-materialist notion that some inner, non-observable, sense of ‘gender’ is of more relevance to being female than actually being female.

How did this notion become a ‘shared socialist value’? It immediately excludes many actual socialist feminists from putting themselves forward for consideration to stand on the Centre Left Grassroots Alliance slate. Additionally, it is entirely unexplained what LGBTQ+ rights actually means, apart from, apparently, the ‘right’ of anyone to ‘self-identify’ into a group in which material existence does not include them.

It later came to our attention, through discussions about this matter within our feminist networks, that other Alliance members had not sought to gate-keep their eligibility criteria in this way, but for some reason Labour Women Leading did.

The assumption that all members of Labour Women Leading’s own network accept that there is no conflict of rights to be discussed from a socialist perspective when it comes to Self ID is censorious and prohibitive. We do not agree that this issue has been decided on amongst socialists. Indeed we would argue – as socialists – that the current gender identity ideology is individualistic, unscientific and regressive and needs better scrutiny by those who position themselves on the left.

This apparent ‘orthodoxy’ seems to be policed by high profile individuals within established women’s organisations and networks in the Labour Party. How did they come to believe that they had the right to stipulate a belief in gender identity ideology as a criterion for selection to the left alliance slate?

Over recent weeks we have witnessed the Stonewall Diversity Champions scheme crumbling. Finally, even mainstream media are saying what some of us have been saying for years, and now, all can see that Stonewall’s foundations have been replaced with “Queer theory”. We see high profile comrades doubling down instead of facing the reality. When will we hear high profile left voices speaking up against this so that we can have the conversations we so desperately need?

If you don’t speak out now then you will find you have submitted to neo-liberal forces without saying so much as a word to defend yesterday’s dreams of something better.

 

 

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 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.