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

 

 

Free Speech for Women at a Free Speech Rally

#StopTheLabourLockout

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 Webinar Video Now Available

We are pleased to announce that the video of our webinar held on 20th 0ctober 2020 is now available to watch on our YouTube channel.  Click on the link below.

Labour Women’s Declaration – Standing up for women’s rights in the Labour Party

We have also uploaded transcripts of speeches.  Please click on the links below.

How 50 years of women’s liberation led to the Labour Women’s Declaration

LWD reflect on a year of the women’s movement

A Materialist Feminist Perspective on Women’s Rights

How we can help you at constituency level

Labour Women’s Declaration Cymru – An overview of grassroots organising in Wales 

 

 

LWD Celebrates First Anniversary

Happy 1st Birthday Labour Women’s Declaration!

Labour women met up over the weekend of the 19th and 20th of October 2019, and the Labour Women’s Declaration was born.

We marked our anniversary with a public webinar (speeches and video coming soon) and played out on this:

“No More Silencing of Women!”