Women’s Rights and Academic Freedom – Part 2

On January 21st we published this blog post telling the sorry tale of how the University of Edinburgh is systematically promoting an uncritical acceptance of gender identity ideology, while allowing critical discussion of that ideology to be closed down. We included in that post nine questions we sent to University managers, some of which related to the postponed event on gender diversity in schools, and some of which related to the wider questions about academic freedom raised by the Guardian article on 14/01/20.

At the end of last week we received an answer from Gavin Douglas, Deputy Secretary of the University. His email, which would appear to be a circular one since we know others have received identical mails, answered none of the nine questions we’d asked. Nor did it indicate that university management have any interest in dealing with the problems documented in our last blog post.

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Women’s Rights and Academic Freedom

According to the tenets of gender identity ideology, every individual has an inner gendered self which manifests as gender identity (a sense of maleness or femaleness) – and this gender identity is the only accurate way of categorising an individual as a man, a woman, both or neither. Under this ideology, biological sex is reduced to a social construction and only gender identity is real. Such a way of thinking clearly has major implications for women’s rights which have been won on the basis of sex, and for the education and safeguarding of children.

You might think that universities are the very places where ideologies with far-reaching consequences can be critically examined, where arguments and counter-arguments based on evidence can be advanced, and where respectful discussion about ways forward in fields like law, criminal justice, health, education and social work can take place. But you would be wrong.

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Meeting with Scottish Government Officials

We were very surprised to see the consultation paper that accompanies the Gender Recognition Reform (Scotland) Bill state that a member of Forwomen.Scot had met with Scottish Government officials – so keen were they to mention this meeting that it was repeated on three separate occasions throughout the document (pages, 114, 117 and 152), even including a reference to our website.

Which would have been nice – except we have never met any Scottish Government Officials.

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Funding Conditions

The Scottish Government funds organisations working towards the outcomes in their Equally Safe policy for eradicating violence against women and girls. Funds were last awarded in 2017 for a three year period to 85 organisations, including 33 Women’s Aid groups across the country, who each received an average of £148,000 per year.

A Freedom of Information response uncovered the following Eligibility Criteria which outlines the conditions that each organisation must meet before submitting a funding application.

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Sandyford

A recent Freedom of Information response, as reported in today’s The Times, has revealed that referrals for Scottish children to the Sandyford Young People’s Gender Service have risen by an unprecedented 705% since 2013, in comparison to a rise of 438% for the Tavistock in London over the same time period.

As of 2018 there are also an additional 470 children (aged 16.5 years or younger) on a waiting list for a first appointment.

The age group with the largest number of referrals is that of 15-16 year olds, for whom referrals have increased by 35% in the year from 2017 to 2018. Worryingly the number of much younger children referred has rocketed with a rise of 62% for 11-12 year olds, and a startling rise of 83% for 4-10 year olds between 2017 and 2018.

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LGBT Youth Scotland – Freedom of Information Request

In 2017, guidance for schools was published by LGBT Youth Scotland, entitled “Supporting Transgender Young People: Guidance for Schools in Scotland”. While its aim was to help schools support children who identify as transgender, the publication was heavily criticised for its failure to consider the specific rights and needs of girls and the negative impact that many of the recommendations made within the guidance would have on them. The production of the guidance was funded by the Scottish Government and it carries the Scottish Government logo prominently on its front cover. Despite this, the Scottish Government were reluctant to take any responsibility for the guidance stating, in response to the sustained criticism, that it would be inappropriate for them to review the guidance and that it had the full support of Ministers. However, in June 2019 the Scottish Government unexpectedly announced their decision to replace the LGBT Youth Scotland publication with guidance produced by the Scottish Government. This post explores the reasoning behind this decision, what we know about the development of the new guidance so far, and LGBTYS involvement.

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The Danger of Self ID Policies in Women’s Combat Sport

The following blog post was contributed by an anonymous writer.

I have been involved in boxing for a long time, and it is a brutal, violent and dangerous sport. In a boxing match, there are two trained fighters in an enclosed space trying to hurt one another. The object is to score points, but let’s be realistic, in competition boxers try to hurt their opponent, break hearts, noses and ribs, to make the referee step in and stop the fight. Blood, broken bones and nasty injuries are a frequent occurrence. Serious injury is not uncommon, debilitating injuries are not infrequent, and death in the ring is not unheard of.

Over the years, efforts have been made to make boxing safer. There are weight categories and experience categories in competitions. You will not see an experienced boxer competing against a novice, and you will not see a heavyweight pitted against a flyweight. Boxers also undergo strict and consistent medical evaluation, but despite all of these measures boxing remains a dangerous sport.

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Consultation with Stakeholders

When Nicola Surgeon stated that feminist’s concerns were “misplaced” at a United Nations conference last February we thought it would be an ideal time to try and arrange a meeting to address our concerns and put forward evidence that self ID policies represent a substantial roll back of women’s rights. When that was unsuccessful, we turned our attention to arranging a meeting with Shirley-Anne Somerville, the Cabinet Secretary responsible for reform of the Gender Recognition Act. After all, she had very recently published an article stating “Government has a duty to understand and seek to address the concerns being raised. This is something I have sought to do since taking this post and to which I commit to continue to do”, so we were hopeful of a meeting.

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