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.
We have also uploaded transcripts of speeches. Please click on the links below.
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.
We have also uploaded transcripts of speeches. Please click on the links below.
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:
It should not take courage to speak about women – our sex and our bodies – nor to insist on our right to organise as women and defend our legal protections.
Yet this is 2020. And this is the Labour Party.
But, at last, we can celebrate the bravery of Rosie Duffield, the first Labour Party MP at Westminster to challenge the erasure of the female sex in public life – the cost of adhering to “gender identity” – and her commitment to speaking on behalf of all women, in and beyond the labour movement.
“I feel like I’m being shut up”, Rosie told The Times, after months of public hounding, “and it was really horrible. It does feel like Gilead, where women aren’t allowed to ask questions or proffer alternative ideas. The shutting down of ideas is particularly dystopian.”
Thousands of Labour women feel the same.
We know what it is like to face expulsion from our party – or even to be refused entry – despite a lifetime fighting for the marginal and oppressed. We know the relentless bullying, the demands that we be sacked on spurious charges, and the campaigns to destroy our reputations, businesses and friendships. We know how it feels to constantly be targeted by vitriolic abuse and threats of violence and rape. We know that sex matters because, as Rosie says, this harassment “strikes at the heart of who you are as a woman, and because it’s base, pure misogyny.”
We know, too, that misogynistic attacks are all the more traumatic for countless women, like Rosie, who have experienced domestic or sexual abuse.
Yet where is the compassion now from her fellow MPs, who praised Rosie when she spoke in the Commons about her harrowing history of abuse and urged them to support the protection and welfare of victims and survivors? Where are these MPs when sadistic men compare her with Mussolini and fantasise about seeing her strung upside down from a lamppost?
This is not about denying trans people human rights. We stand with Rosie in saying that “everyone has the right to express themselves and be whatever and whoever they need to be.” We strongly support medical and social services that will enable trans people to fully participate in society and enjoy the human rights we all share.
But we are concerned to protect women’s rights, fought for by the women who built the Labour Party. We hold sex equality legislation as one of the great achievements of our party and we were proud to campaign for our 2019 Manifesto, committed to ensuring that “the single-sex-based exemptions contained in the Equality Act 2010 are understood and fully enforced in service provision.”
Yet there are Labour members, including some shadow ministers, who continue to equivocate over support for these exemptions. Like numerous women, we fear losing our hard – won rights and protections. “From a woman’s point of view”, as Rosie puts it, “what we are really terrified of is the erasure of women’s safe spaces. We seem to have galloped to the point where women’s spaces are being taken away and that’s deeply terrifying.”
Our rights, within our own party, to organise and speak – as and for our sex – have already been taken away, with barely any discussion. There could be “No debate” we were told, when we asked for a conversation on how we can move forward by reconciling sex-based rights with those of gender identity. Our attempts to open dialogue were met by accusations of bigotry and calls for our expulsion.
“More light, less heat” is all Keir Starmer will say, whenever the issue is raised. But we have seen no effort to turn on the light or to open space for respectful discussion. The Leadership, it seems, wants to avoid getting entangled in a “culture war” over sex and gender. But this is a culture war we cannot duck.
“There is an argument”, warns Rosie, “that the Tories are making it look as though they’re more tolerant than the Labour Party”, and on the current impasse over sex and gender, we fear she is right: “I think if we can’t discuss it then we’re in danger of that happening.” We believe the Labour Party will doom itself to losing the confidence of voters, if it casts aside the rights and needs of women in favour of an unworkable model of “self-declaration”.
This should concern us all, women and men. It is time for everyone to take responsibility for grappling with this urgent matter. This means listening and thinking, not mantras and invective. It means compassion, reflection, and honesty.
It should not take courage to speak up for women.
But with courage comes strength and freedom. It is liberating and exhilarating to speak your truth. Feminism owes its existence to those who dared to speak their mind and challenge orthodoxy, while also listening, arguing, and even changing their mind. So too does socialism.
“Courage calls to courage”, proclaimed the women suffragists: “Dare to be free.”
Join us. Join Rosie Duffield. Speak up.
The Labour Women’s Declaration Working Group
Read and sign the Labour Women’s Declaration here.
No substantial reform of the GRA process
Labour Women’s Declaration welcomes the decision not to proceed with changing the Gender Recognition Act (GRA) to permit self-identification as the only prerequisite for the granting of a Gender Recognition Certificate (GRC). The safeguarding of transitioning individuals demands proper checks and professional expertise, as is intended by the current provisions of the Act. Of course, only a small proportion of those who declare themselves transgender currently apply for a GRC, but the expectation of a legal self-identification route has led to policies across many institutions and businesses being devised on that basis.
We are hopeful that the new clinics in the process of development, and the proposed training of GPs, will include a much greater emphasis on counselling and psychotherapy to enable individuals proposing to transition to fully consider all aspects of the changes before embarking on the hormonal, and possibly surgical, aspects of transition. We agree with Labour’s Shadow Minister in her emphasis on the need for investment in healthcare provision and for pressing the government for clarity on the actual substance of these proposals.
We would like to see greater consultation with, and support for, the civil partners and spouses of those undertaking a change of legal status. Currently, their only involvement in the process is providing a statutory declaration stating whether they are or are not willing to continue the marriage/civil partnership after granting of a GRC – and if not, a provisional certificate is given until a divorce is granted (or death of the partner/spouse). The impact on such individuals is immense, and for many the decision of their partner to transition has profound implications for their lives and those of any children. This is, of course, true for the partners of those transitioners who do not apply for a GRC or have not entered into a legal contract of marriage/civil partnership, also. However, where change of legal status is to be granted, the legal status of the marriage/civil partnership contract is also changed, affecting both partners.
It was deeply disappointing to hear Labour’s Shadow Secretary for Women and Equalities, during Women and Equalities questions in the House of Commons on 23 September, describe the decision to retain the current process for the acquisition of a Gender Recognition Certificate as ‘disgraceful’ and regarding it as letting the transgender community down. Retaining the GRA as it is does not take any rights away from transgender people. Self-identification would be problematic for many contexts, including spouses/civil partners, data collection and single-sex provisions, as well as potentially for the individual themselves who might have no route to find the support needed for making a major life change.
Equality Act 2010
We are very pleased that Ms Truss has agreed with the policy of the Labour Party, as outlined in the 2019 Manifesto, regarding the single-sex provisions of the Equality Act 2010. The wish to “ensure that the single-sex-based exemptions contained in the Equality Act 2010 are understood and fully enforced in service provision” is now the policy of both Labour and Conservative parties, with the Conservative government looking to strengthen this aspect of the Act. We hope this will result in greater clarity, and an end to the inaccurate interpretations perpetuated by Stonewall and others – even the EHRC. We are alarmed that the EHRC has tweeted its disagreement with the government’s statement. Given its duty to provide accurate guidance for public bodies, and having been required to withdraw its previous inaccurate advice on the single sex exceptions, it is of considerable concern that it is failing in its duty to foster good relations between groups with different protected characteristics.
One of the extremely serious and all-pervasive effects of this inaccuracy has been that local authorities, businesses, schools, funders, the NHS and others have created a situation where previously understood single-sex spaces – hospital wards, women’s refuges and hostels, public toilets, et al – are now effectively mixed-sex through being understood as ‘single gender’, with gender relying on self-identification. We trust that these existing situations will be addressed alongside bringing clarity to future applications of the single-sex exemptions of the Equality Act.
It is a mark of the seriousness with which Ms Truss has approached the issue of conversion therapy for lesbians and gay men that research is already being undertaken into the current situation before proceeding to any legal means to prevent this heinous practice. It has reduced enormously over recent decades, but it is clearly important to ensure that no-one is subjected to such attempts to change their sexual orientation. We look forward to hearing the proposals next month.
Review of gender identity services for children and young people
We were pleased to hear the confirmation that the former President of the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health, Dr Hilary Cass OBE, will lead the wide-ranging review into gender identity services for children and young people. It is crucial that clinical protocols and referral routes serve children and young people well, and that the current presumption of ‘affirmation’ is challenged. We welcome the investigation into the enormous rise in the number of children referred to such services. We look forward to her report next year.
Whatever the outcome of that report, it is quite obviously essential that the government invests in the training of practitioners and provision of vastly more mental health services for all young people in the UK.
Looking to the future
As stated above, we are very concerned that so many government organisations, official bodies and businesses have run ahead of the law. Self-identification has been embedded in the policies and practices of the NHS, schools, police, councils, government departments, and many more organisations, as a result of adopting Stonewall Diversity Champion’s kitemark, or incorrect advice from government funded lobby groups, without proper evaluation or impact assessment of the effect on women. It is of the utmost importance that the government and all other bodies with influence now work to correct these policies, which are damaging to the interests of women, lesbians, and gay men. The conflation of sex and gender must be addressed, and a full understanding of the importance of sex as a protected characteristic fully taken into account.
Free speech for women members of the Labour Party
We, along with many other women, have been silenced and threatened, including with complaints to Labour’s Governance and Legal Unit, and with CLPs refusing to permit us to speak. This is not the way to enable a sensible understanding of these important issues. We call on the Labour Party as well as the government to stand up for the right of women to speak about matters which directly affect us, without intimidation or abuse.
For more details our briefing for MPs and Peers on all these issues can be found on here.
Follow this link to the responses from sister organisations to the government’s GRA announcement here.
Today, the last day of this sitting before the summer recess, there were questions to the Minister for Women and Equalities, Liz Truss. It had previously been said that a statement would come before the recess, responding to the GRA consultation. This did not happen, but questions alluded to that and related issues. Ms Truss’s key responses were as follows:
As the Prime Minister said, we will respond to the consultation over the summer. Let me be absolutely clear: we will not be rolling back the rights of transgender people. It is important that transgender people are able to live their lives as they wish, without fear, and we will make sure that that is the case.
I have been clear that the Government are committed to tackling the abhorrent practice of so-called gay-conversion therapy in the UK. As the Prime Minister reiterated earlier this week, this practice has no place in civilised society. Our action will be determined by research looking at how best to define conversion therapy, the scale of the issue, where it is happening and who it is happening to. When that research is complete, I will bring forward proposals to ban conversion therapy, making sure that our measures are effective so that no innocent people have to endure such tortuous practices.
We are as disappointed as some of those hoping for specific changes to the Gender Recognition Act that the Minister for Women and Equalities is still not coming out with a clear statement about the Conservative government’s intentions regarding the proposed reform. That this has been delayed to some unspecified time during the recess does not inspire confidence. However, we are pleased that Ms Truss has explained that there is to be no roll-back on trans rights, despite the implication from certain quarters that not making a change to self-ID constitutes a roll-back.
Any reform to the GRA must rely on evidence of need and have comprehensive Equality Impact Assessment for proposed changes. The impact of such reform on women’s and on lesbian, gay and bisexual rights must be fully assessed, including clarification of the interactions between the EA2010 and the GRA.
We are also concerned that nothing further has been said about strengthening the single-sex exceptions in the Equality Act, nor about protecting children and young people under 18 from making decisions about potentially life-changing treatment.
We are pleased that research is to be conducted regarding the prevalence and definition of gay conversion therapy, before any moves to present legislative or other proposals. We also note that this statement from Ms Truss referred quite explicitly to gay conversion therapy and not so-called ‘gender identity conversion therapy’.
We await the forthcoming statement.
Back in April we wrote to new Labour Party leader Sir Keir Starmer to raise the issue of women’s sex-based rights and offer him a briefing on the subject. To date, we’ve received no response. This is our follow up letter – sent to him by email on 9th June. (As you can see it’s a briefing in itself!).
Women’s Sex-Based Rights
We write on behalf of our 300 founders and 4,447 signatories to our Declaration. (We also invite you to read some of the 452 comments made by signatories to the Declaration which will give you a flavour of the strength of feeling amongst members and supporters on this subject.) We are all Labour supporters, most of us are Party members, many are elected officers, councillors and three are elected MSPs. Several are active members of your own CLP. Our concern is the Party’s approach to ‘gender identity’ and women’s sex-based rights. We wish to raise a number of issues with you to which we request and expect a response.
No response to our offer of a briefing
We wrote to you on 23rd April and invited you to meet us online, along with MSP Johann Lamont, to which we have not received a response other than an automated email stating: “If you are emailing me in my role as Leader of the Opposition, your message has been successfully received and we will do our very best to respond.”
The content of our previous message is appended to this letter.
Without a proper briefing of the Party Leadership about our concerns, we fear that the Party stands very little chance of moving forward on this issue. It will continue to make unnecessary mistakes such as refusing membership to leading feminist campaigners like Karen Ingala Smith, whose ‘Counting Dead Women’ list is read out each year in Parliament by Jess Phillips MP. Karen’s party membership was rejected on the grounds of “hostility to gender identity,” despite the fact that gender identity cannot be defined, and has no basis in law.
We are very disappointed not to have received a reply, particularly given the claim that:
“Labour is the party of equality, committed to achieving a world free from all forms of bigotry and discrimination… Whether campaigning on the streets or passing legislation in government, Labour is the only party to consistently stand with women… Labour will put women at the heart of our government and programme.”
We have consequently decided to make this follow up message an ‘Open Letter’.
We hope of course that David Evans, the new General Secretary of the Party, will take note of what we have to say about the Labour Party Rule Book. And that Marsha de Cordova, Shadow Minister for Women and Equalities, will work to apply Party policy in relation to women’s sex-based rights.
Although the Labour Party Manifesto 2019 stated a commitment to “ensure that the single-sex-based exemptions contained in the Equality Act 2010 are understood and fully enforced in service provision”, it remains virtually impossible to discuss that commitment to women within the Party. Those of us who attempt to do so are routinely abused, smeared and silenced. The demands of various groups of transactivists for expulsion of members who support the manifesto commitment were supported by most of the candidates for leadership and deputy leadership (including Angela Rayner). We noted that you and Richard Burgon signed the marginally less incendiary trans pledge. However, the fact that you have neither signed our Declaration, which is entirely in line with the 2019 manifesto (and adheres to the Labour Party Rule Book and Codes of Conduct), nor given our many supporters the benefit of a reply to any of our emails and approaches, is very concerning.
Challenges to the pervasive “policy capture”
Policy capture is widespread in public and private bodies across the UK and extends into the Government Equality Office (GEO) and the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC), which means that guidance regarding protected characteristics and reference to the single sex exemptions in Equality Act 2010 is often inaccurate.
This paper (The 2010 Equality Act Is Being Undermined by Official Guidance) by Ann Sinnott, Director of Authentic Equity Alliance clearly sets out the conflict between official guidance and women’s sex based rights:
“One of the most contentious social conflicts today is that between women’s rights campaigners – who protest that women-only spaces, in both public and private organisations, are being eroded to the detriment of women and girls – and transgender rights campaigners, who dismiss such claims as bigoted nonsense and assert that transwomen are women and entitled to access women-only spaces. Scarcely a day goes by without media coverage of this issue and a ferocious war rages on social media.”
The paper goes on to describe how this misinformation regarding the Equality Act 2010 came about due to pressure and training from Stonewall: “…for the last six years people have been incorrectly told that transwomen with a Gender Recognition Certificate have an automatic right to enter and use women-only spaces.”
The Government Equality Office recently removed its endorsement from schools guidance produced by EqualiTeach, tweeting on 1st May 2020 “the LGBT guidance for primary schools published by EqualiTeach does not reflect government policy. GEO had no input into the document. The GEO logo has been removed.”
Judicial review claim being prepared against CPS
Lawyers acting in a Pre-Action Protocol Letter for Judicial Review on 3rd April 2020 (to which the CPS responded by withdrawing their LGBT Bullying and Hate crime Guidance for review) said:
“The CPS in discharge of their s149 EA duty should have addressed how the Guidance they have issued would impact children with other protected characteristics. Of obvious and immediate relevance are those children with the protected characteristics of sex (especially girls), sexual orientation and religion and belief…
“It is not clear that the CPS has consulted children and groups with other protected characteristics to see how the Guidance might impact them. The result is a document that advocates for a school environment where gender self-identification is law and trumps all other protected characteristics. This is misleading and unlawful.”
This action challenging the CPS regarding its LGBT Bullying and Hate Crime Guidance is still on going in that the CPS, which has said it will review its guidance, is now being challenged to withdraw as a Stonewall ‘Diversity Champion’.
Toolkits and Guidance for Schools
More and more local authorities are withdrawing the ‘Trans Inclusion Toolkit for Schools 2019’ which is based on legally incorrect advice provided by Mermaids and Stonewall, and does not safeguard children.
Labour Councils in Barnsley and Doncaster, and Conservative led councils in Essex, Kent, Leicestershire, Shropshire, Somerset and Warwickshire, as well as Denbighshire and Oxfordshire (both NOC, Conservative – led) have withdrawn the incorrect guidance.
‘Sex’ Category in the Census
Alice Sullivan, Director of the 1970 British Cohort Study, UCL Professor of Sociology and member of your local CLP, is a leading authority on the need to retain the category of sex in data collection including the Census. She was one of the 72 social scientist signatories of this Letter to the UK Census Authorities and the Scottish Government, which includes the statement: “As experts in social statistics and users of population level data, we call on the UK’s census authorities to retain the integrity of the category of sex, and not to conflate this with gender identity.”
We recommend that you agree to hear what Professor Sullivan has to say, and would be happy to invite her to join us in an online meeting with you.
Persistent inaccuracies in the 2020 Labour Party Rule Book
Shockingly, the Labour Party Rule Book still does not reference the Equality Act 2010, and many of the phrases about countering discrimination incorrectly list the protected categories from the Act; for example ‘sex’, which is a protected characteristic, is referred to only twice whereas ‘gender identity’, which is not a protected characteristic, is referred to many times as if it is an accepted, agreed and definable concept. This is not the case. Furthermore, this issue has never been discussed and agreed at Conference.
These errors were brought to the attention of Jennie Formby by our Working Group in 2018, but no response was received despite several reminders having been sent. It has now been brought to the attention of the Chair of the NEC Equality Sub-Committee, as no correction to these errors and omissions has been made in the 2020 Rule Book. Surely it is reasonable to expect that the Rule Book of Her Majesty’s Opposition Party should correctly reference existing UK law?
We would very much like the opportunity to discuss these important issues with you at the earliest possible opportunity.
Please do contact us to let us know when it will be possible for us to arrange an online meeting along with Johann Lamont.