Women’s Rights Demo, September 2021

Thank you to all who attended our demo at the Scottish Parliament, and to the MSPs who came out to speak with us – we think it was a roaring success!

This page is to bring together the main links for videos and speeches from the demonstration, but please also look on Twitter (under the hashtag #WomenWontWheesht) for many, many more videos and photographs.

Speakers: Marion Calder, Kate Coleman, Rhona Hotchkiss, Lisa Mackenzie, Caroline McAllister, Shereen Benjamin, Susan Dalgety, and Lisa Keogh

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The Real Crisis at Rape Crisis Scotland

But I think the other thing is that sexual violence happens to bigoted people as well. And so, you know, it is not discerning crime. But these spaces are also for you. But if you bring unacceptable beliefs that are discriminatory in nature, we will begin to work with you on your journey of recovery from trauma. But please also expect to be challenged on your prejudices, because how can you heal from trauma and build a new relationship with your trauma, because you can’t forget, and you can’t go back to life before traumatic incident or traumatic incidents. And some of us never, ever had a life before traumatic incidents. But if you have to reframe your trauma, I think it is important as part of that reframing, having a more positive relationship with it, where it becomes a story that empowers you and allows you to go and do other more beautiful things with your life, you also have to rethink your relationship with prejudice. Otherwise, you can’t really, in my view, recover from trauma and I think that’s a very important message that I am often discussing with my colleagues that in various places. Because you know, to me, therapy is political, and it isn’t always seen as that.

Mridul Wadhwa, Guilty Feminist podcast
Audio I Transcript

The passage above is from a podcast featuring Mridul Wadhwa, the Chief Executive Officer of Edinburgh Rape Crisis. The podcast as a whole is a masterclass of gaslighting and features an extraordinary performance by the host Deborah Frances-White, who downplays the harassment women “might” get on a night bus at 1am when compared to the “very structurally violent constant flicks of eyes, and I don’t know, oh, God, and aggressive glares” that she says transwomen are exposed to. Other “anecdotal” assumptions by Frances-White include that of a transwoman’s reception at a shelter: “if they turn up they’re more likely to be vulnerable and fearful of their response. Because if I turned up to a refuge, a women’s refuge, in the middle of the night going, I’ve just had this terrible experience, my expectation would be you would say, Oh, please come in, we’ll take care of you. But I can imagine being trans and thinking I’ve, you know, I know what people say and I know that, you know, maybe this will be an inclusive space for me and maybe it won’t. Maybe they’ll say get out of here. And so this violence will be compounded by more structural violence.” 

Frances-White’s naive, factually incorrect analysis of violence against women and how women feel in accessing services and support is never challenged by the supposed expert Wadhwa who is happy to allow Frances-White and co-host Kemah Bob to talk about abused women being obliged to “check your privilege”. A podcast interviewing the CEO of a rape centre becomes an exercise in proving that the person in charge of the centre is a more vulnerable person than the women accessing the service.

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The Status of Women In Scotland – Conclusions

UN Women invited submissions to the Commission on the Status of Women with information relating to alleged violations of human rights that affect the status of women in any country in the world. Our full submission can be found here but we have also turned each section into the following stand alone blog pieces:

Gender Representation on Public Boards Act I All-Women Shortlists I Census and Data Collection on Sex I Hate Crime and Public Order Act I Prisons I Women’s Services and the Genuine Occupational Requirement I Conclusions


The evidence in this submission illustrates that in Scotland there exists a serious and immediate risk to the overall framework protecting women from discrimination based on sex as well as to the individual human rights and freedoms of women. In particular the human rights of women to safety, dignity, privacy, the freedom of speech, expression and belief, the protection of maternity, the right to education and sports, the right to political and public participation, are all at grave risk from changes wrought by the current legal developments in which the Scottish Government ignores the international obligations and commitments on sex-based discrimination. It does so by replacing or conflating the protected characteristic of sex with non-protected notions of gender and/or gender identity. These redefinitions and the impact on the human rights of women have not been scrutinised from the perspective of “gender impact assessment” ie. whether it impacts the rights and freedoms of women and girls, as required by European and international frameworks.

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The Status of Women In Scotland – Women’s Services and the Genuine Occupational Requirement

UN Women invited submissions to the Commission on the Status of Women with information relating to alleged violations of human rights that affect the status of women in any country in the world. Our full submission can be found here but we have also turned each section into the following stand alone blog pieces:

Gender Representation on Public Boards Act I All-Women Shortlists I Census and Data Collection on Sex I Hate Crime and Public Order Act I Prisons I Women’s Services and the Genuine Occupational Requirement I Conclusions


  1. According to the European Union’s Directive 2004/113/EC,1 transposed in the  United Kingdom in December 2007, differences in treatment between women and men are permissible when they are justified by a legitimate aim. The directive states that “A legitimate aim may, for example, be the protection of victims of sex-related violence (in cases such as the establishment of single-sex shelters), reasons of privacy and decency (in cases such as the provision of accommodation by a person in a part of that person’s home), the promotion of gender equality or of the interests of men or women (for example single-sex voluntary bodies), the freedom of association (in cases of membership of single-sex private clubs), and the organisation of sporting activities (for example single-sex sports events).” In accordance with the Directive, the UK’s Equality Act permits the difference in treatment, and the exclusion of male sex, in the context of services and establishments  providing assistance to female victims of violence.
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The Status of Women In Scotland – Prisons

UN Women invited submissions to the Commission on the Status of Women with information relating to alleged violations of human rights that affect the status of women in any country in the world. Our full submission can be found here but we have also turned each section into the following stand alone blog pieces:

Gender Representation on Public Boards Act I All-Women Shortlists I Census and Data Collection on Sex I Hate Crime and Public Order Act I Prisons I Women’s Services and the Genuine Occupational Requirement I Conclusions


  1. In 2014 the Scottish Prison Service (SPS) published its Gender Identity and Gender Reassignment Policy, in which the key policy principle is that: “The person in custody’s gender identity and corresponding name and pronouns must be respected. The accommodation provided must be the one that best suits the person in custody’s needs and should reflect the gender in which the person in custody is currently living…Restrictions to association with other people in custody should be avoided wherever possible.1
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The Status of Women In Scotland – Hate Crime and Public Order Act

UN Women invited submissions to the Commission on the Status of Women with information relating to alleged violations of human rights that affect the status of women in any country in the world. Our full submission can be found here but we have also turned each section into the following stand alone blog pieces:

Gender Representation on Public Boards Act I All-Women Shortlists I Census and Data Collection on Sex I Hate Crime and Public Order Act I Prisons I Women’s Services and the Genuine Occupational Requirement I Conclusions


  1. In May 2018 Lord Bracadale published his report on Hate Crime in Scotland.1 One of the areas he had been asked to address was whether the category of sex should be added in order to address the rising tide of misogynistic abuse. Bracadale said that his investigations into such abuse had made him angry and “I worry that it puts the next generation of young women off politics. So, I feel a responsibility to challenge it, not so much on my own behalf, but on behalf of young women out there who are looking at what people say about me and thinking, I don’t want to ever be in that position.
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The Status of Women In Scotland – Census and Data Collection on Sex

UN Women invited submissions to the Commission on the Status of Women with information relating to alleged violations of human rights that affect the status of women in any country in the world. Our full submission can be found here but we have also turned each section into the following stand alone blog pieces:

Gender Representation on Public Boards Act I All-Women Shortlists I Census and Data Collection on Sex I Hate Crime and Public Order Act I Prisons I Women’s Services and the Genuine Occupational Requirement I Conclusions


  1. In 2018 a draft bill on the proposed (later delayed) 2021 Scottish Census was introduced. Provision was made for additional questions on sexuality and gender identity which were universally supported. However, of concern to women’s organisations was the proposal to undermine the integrity of the sex question by allowing a third “non binary” category to be introduced and guidance which would have permitted the sex question to be answered based on self-identification of gender, meaning that, in effect, there would be two questions based on self-identified gender and none on sex.
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The Status of Women In Scotland – All-Women Shortlists

UN Women invited submissions to the Commission on the Status of Women with information relating to alleged violations of human rights that affect the status of women in any country in the world. Our full submission can be found here but we have also turned each section into the following stand alone blog pieces:

Gender Representation on Public Boards Act I All-Women Shortlists I Census and Data Collection on Sex I Hate Crime and Public Order Act I Prisons I Women’s Services and the Genuine Occupational Requirement I Conclusions


  1. The political participation of women in Scotland has not yet achieved full equality, and, as such, still requires positive temporary measures to ensure women’s equal participation in the Scottish Parliament. In 2016 only 45 women were elected as Members of the Scottish Parliament (MSP), representing 35% of Scotland’s 129 MSPs. In the 2021 election the number of women MSPs rose to 58 (45%).
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The Status of Women In Scotland – Gender Representation on Public Boards Act

UN Women invited submissions to the Commission on the Status of Women with information relating to alleged violations of human rights that affect the status of women in any country in the world. Our full submission can be found here but we have also turned each section into the following stand alone blog pieces:

Gender Representation on Public Boards Act I All-Women Shortlists I Census and Data Collection on Sex I Hate Crime and Public Order Act I Prisons I Women’s Services and the Genuine Occupational Requirement I Conclusions


  1. In 2018, the Scottish Parliament passed the Gender Representation on Public Boards (Scotland) Act1 (GRPBA), aimed at improving the representation of women on the boards of Scottish public bodies. The Act was introduced to redress historic under-representation of women on these boards by setting an objective for the non-executive member component in order to achieve 50% female representation. The Act places duties on public authorities, appointing persons, and Scottish Ministers in connection to their role in achieving the gender representation objective. The Statutory Guidance was published on 29 May 2020.2
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