For the International Women’s Day episode of BBC Woman’s Hour, Emma Barnett interviewed Anneliese Dodds, the Shadow Minister for Women and Equalities, and asked her for a clear definition of ‘what a woman is’.
Thank you to the sister who sent us this transcript of her response.
Emma Barnett: There’s one just to put here again to you, Anneliese, if I can, from Jill and I have to say a whole series of these messages came in at the same time. I would legislate for a clear definition of what a woman is. You’re in this position and Labour still, it seems to be the position that Labour would update the Gender Recognition Act to enable a process of self-identification. How does that fit with also trying to support the implementation of single sex exemptions? How do those two things go together? Which I believe is Labour’s position.
Anneliese Dodds: Well, they go together because of a very proud Labour achievement ultimately, which was that Equality Act 2010. One of the last measures that we were determined to put into place as a Labour government and that Equality Act, as many people listening to this, I’m sure will be aware and they may well have used its provisions actually against discrimination. It protects on the basis of sex and it ensures that there can be change from the usual principle of, for example, the inclusion of trans people where that is proportionate means to a legitimate end. It’s spelled out very clearly within that act, and we’d uphold those provisions. So that’s how it goes together. You know, really we need to end up in a situation where we see equality across the board where we make sure that we have that future where everyone can have those opportunities
Emma Barnett: And Labour’s definition of a woman?
Anneliese Dodds: Well, I have to say that there are different definitions legally around what a woman actually is. I mean, you look at the definition within the Equality Act, and I think it just says someone who is adult and female, I think, but then doesn’t see how you define either of those things. I mean, obviously, that’s then you’ve got the biological definition, legal definition…
Emma Barnett: With respect, I didn’t ask for that. What’s the Labour definition?
Anneliese Dodds: Oh, I think with respect, Emma, I think it does depend what the context is surely. I mean surely that is important here. You know, there are people who have decided that they have to make that transition. You know, I’ve spoken with many of them. It’s been a very difficult process for many of those people. And you know, understandably because they live as a woman, you know, they want to be defined as a woman. That’s what the gender recognition act…again a Labour…is brought into place.
Emma Barnett: Context is all but trans women are women from your perspective? Is that right?
Anneliese Dodds: But then when you come to the Equality Act, and you know, Emma, I’m not going to…
Emma Barnett: You’re just shadow Women and Equalities Minister. I’ve been asked this by about eight messages here. And I’m just trying to clarify, because the government’s been very clear, it’s not going ahead in England, with the process of self-identification. So that’s why I’m asking you.
Anneliese Dodds: Well, I don’t think the government has been very clear around many aspects of this, Emma. When it comes to the operation of the single sex exemptions, you know, that is spelled out within the Equality Act quite rightly. I mean when it comes to sport, for example…It says that you can have single sex. Sorry, if I can just finish… you can have that single sex exemption, for example, if that’s necessary for the safety of participants in sport, or if it’s necessary, in order to ensure fair competitions. That is spelled out within the act. I think it’s really important that we’re actually looking at what the legislation says .
Emma Barnett: I’ve read it out. I’ve read it out several times, and I’m sure I will continue to do so. I was just trying to get a pithy answer or definition from you there in your role.
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This morning you told the British public you literally can't define what a woman is. What's the plan, lift up random objects until you find one that rattles? https://t.co/QoBPt5HpKf
— J.K. Rowling (@jk_rowling) March 8, 2022
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