Thursday night saw the latest assault on women’s rights by Cambridge City Council. With near unanimity councillors voted that gender identity trumps sex. Kevin Price, a Labour councillor for King’s Hedges ward, resigned his seat rather than vote against the Labour Group. His was the one voice of opposition. In doing so, he cited the World Rugby decision which exposes the danger and unfairness of pretending sex is not real, as well as the abuse that women (such as Rosie Duffield and JK Rowling) receive for insisting that sex matters. He also questioned the propriety of a council briefing, prepared by officers, calling ‘transphobic’ the normal practice of journalism in reporting and commenting on legislative proposals.
Cambridge City Councillors who passed the motion as amended have no excuse for not understanding the implications of their vote that ‘Trans women are women. Trans men are men. Non-binary individuals are non-binary.’
Only two years ago the City Council had to act on advice they were outside the law in adopting a policy preventing the use of Equality Act single-sex exemptions as intended. The provision of single-sex spaces and services are valued and extremely popular policies. In some cases, such as prisons, this provision also forms part of international human rights standards. The current Labour Group leader Lewis Herbert, was on the seven-member Scrutiny Committee that in October 2010, which, with only one female member, decided to adopt the unlawful policy in the first place. In correcting this in 2018, the council will have had to grapple with this sensitive area of the law. It is therefore inconceivable that they do not understand that a conflict of rights is created when gender identity overwrites sex (as in the adoption of the slogan ‘trans women are women’).
If, as the council has now adopted without caveats, ‘trans women are women’ then trans identification permits male people inclusion in female-only spaces such as prisons, women’s refuges, rape crisis centres, changing rooms, hospital wards, hostels, and communal dormitories. It means the request for a same-sex health care practitioner can be fulfilled by someone who identifies as being of the same sex but may not be. It means that positive action designed to ameliorate disadvantages experienced specifically by women can be taken advantage of by males.
The councillors who voted for this motion should answer, whether they support the continued existence of lawful single-sex exemptions within the Equality Act and how they consider that to be consistent with the slogan they have adopted.
24th October 2020