‘Proposals to Allow Self-identification of Gender’ Debate

Press Statement – Proposals to Allow Self-identification of Gender, House of Commons, 21 November 2018

FWS was disappointed to hear of the extremely low turnout at the debate on ‘Proposals to Allow Self-identification of Gender’ in the House of Commons today. This debate is the most important on women’s rights in a generation and the outcome has the potential to negatively affect the lives of women and girls. We are grateful to David Davies for his unwavering support and saddened that so many of our erstwhile allies in the centre and the left of politics are so dismissive of women’s concerns.

As such, it is even more dispiriting that female MPs are so cavalier about our hard won rights. There was one Scottish MP in attendance: Hannah Bardell of the SNP, ironically, has clearly not understood the situation as it pertains in Scotland and has not undertaken the most basic analysis of the terms on which the Scottish consultation was carried out.

She made reference to the “huge” response to the Scottish consultation. It is worth noting that while the consultation was widely circulated in certain sectors, most of the Scottish general public were shamefully kept in the dark about the extent and the focus. This consultation was promoted as entirely pertaining to the LGBT community with no reference to the dramatic impact on women’s rights. We know from FoI requests that women’s groups did not feed in to the framing of the consultation, consequently there was no reference to the potential impact or risks for women and girls, and no questions on this rather crucial issue.

Of rape crisis shelters, Bardell says that Linda Rodgers of Edinburgh Women’s Aid said that she had not heard from the organisation’s staff or board that self ID could be abused. This is a remarkably vague construction and also points to a telling and disturbing omission. None of the women who use the services were asked whether they, as rape victims, would feel comfortable in the presence of male bodied individuals.

She went on to quote: “The reality is that any service has the potential to be abused, and we would deal with that, whatever direction it came from on a case by case basis…I don’t think this should be used as a reason to restrict the rights of a particular group.” This, of course, is nonsense. Services are not operated on a free for all, they are restricted to particular groups otherwise providers would no longer be able to operate. Privately, Forwomen.Scot hear representations from staff in the sector who are concerned about speaking out because they fear for their funding or their jobs. The Scottish government’s own consultation was designed to elicit one response from the organisations it funds.

On concerns regarding children and young people, Bardell went on to quote Stonewall, the organisation which has the greatest vested interest in this debate, wishes to remove sex-based protections in the Equality Act, and is hardly, therefore, an impartial observer.

Bardell’s list of women’s organisations who apparently support GRA reform are all reliant on government funds and none have consulted stakeholders. Indeed, some have gone to extraordinary lengths to prevent any dissent or counter-argument.

Bardell talks of a groundswell of public opinion, but she would do well to note that this is not, as she believes, from the well funded lobby groups but from ordinary women fighting to protect our rights and those of our children.