The announcement this week by the Scottish Government that they intend to fully consult with women and carry out a full Equality Impact Assessment into proposals to adopt legal self-identification of ‘gender’ was very welcome news.
The announcement of a review of schools’ guidance to ensure the rights of girls are being upheld was also an important development.
All of this is an acknowledgement that processes so far have failed in transparency, fairness or equality and that women raising concerns were right to do so.
It is testament to the hard graft and determination of self-organised women’s groups and individuals such as Women’s Spaces Scotland, Women and Girls Scotland, Scottish Women, For Women Scotland. They have stepped in to the breach left by publicly funded organisations which have failed to properly represent the women they claim to speak for.
In a properly functioning democracy, it shouldn’t have taken this long for women’s concerns to be heard or responded to. Women should have been included in the initial consultation on plans to amend the Gender Recognition Act (GRA). We should have been part of any and all discussions which led to proposals to amend the law and public policy. The fact that we were not, and the way we have been treated when objecting to the proposals, has exposed an ingrained and widespread misogyny we had thought we had largely left behind.
We were wrong.
We will be watching what happens in Scotland very carefully but we know the women of Scotland will make sure that the promises that have been made are now enacted.
Our attention turns to Westminster.
The chaos around Brexit means that most MPs have very little inclination to think about other matters, but they should. Issues of concern to women will need dealing with whatever happens with Europe, and politicians of every hue would do well to heed the voices of women who feel alienated and ignored by politics.
We will expect any proposed plans to change the GRA to now follow Scotland’s lead. We will accept nothing less than:
- A full and proper consultation with women’s groups including self-organising groups and a wide range of representation from the third sector
- A full Equality Impact assessment of any proposals on this or any other law or change in public policy
But our campaign now goes beyond the GRA proposals.
It is clear that the single-sex exemptions in the Equality Act are poorly understood and inadequately used. Services designed for women are already unsure about the legitimacy of invoking these exemptions and it is clear that many women are missing out on rights they are entitled to.
We want this put right.
Beyond these exemptions, it is clear that women are poorly served across a range of services and institutions including education, employment, healthcare, the media and the law.
This is why we are now committed to fighting for the implementation of a range of actions that will challenge the oppression and misogyny women face as well as enforcing and enhancing our legal rights.
Our draft manifesto laid out a long list of demands. We will be issuing a final version soon after considering the ideas and suggestions sent to us by supporters.
But the overriding demand is clear:
Women are being let down and Westminster needs to put that right.