I never learnt to swim

This is the text of an email received by Woman’s Place UK ahead of A Woman’s Place is on the Podium #WPUKFairPlay.

With the writer’s permission we are sharing it with you. It has been edited to preserve her anonymity.

I’d like to share some thoughts with you, so you understand how deeply I appreciate what you’re doing and also just because I previously felt so abandoned by the feminism I’d encountered.

I live on a boat. I never learnt to swim. Tried to as an adult so I don’t drown when I fall off my boat, but I was unteachable by then.

My younger sister can swim. This is because some 30 years ago, a group of mums hired out a sports centre so that mothers and daughters/nieces/girls could learn and go swimming safely and without any BS from their blokes. I was, and still am, jealous of not learning how to swim then.

I missed out on that because, as what-would-now-be-called a ‘gender non-conforming girl’, in a conservative religious community here, with general non-conforming behaviour (what my parents would call ‘trouble’, what I now realise is Asperger’s) I was instead married off as a teenager.

If I was born later, and to different parents, I’d have long ago been packed off to the Tavistock Clinic. I’m grateful I wasn’t because I am happy to be me and a woman. There are so many parallels even across time and dogmas. I’m not surprised I didn’t want to become a woman then; am not surprised so many young girls don’t want to become women now.

Never, ever did I think I would be grateful for what happened, but it’s true. It seems a better fate than some of what I see here now.

I did escape the marriage, and abandoned religion, but not religious women.

I learnt that the word for what I’ve instinctively always known was feminism. That liberal, happy-clappy feminism supposedly I was told, but that feminism wouldn’t listen to me because my existence contradicts their dogma.

I’m inconvenient. I make their intersectional-hierarchical nonsense implode, so they’d rather attack, just like they attack what you are doing.

I understand that you are putting yourselves in danger, and I am grateful. I am grateful because you are doing it for all women and I had lost hope that was a thing.

My sister now lives in a country that does not permit women to swim. She knows how to swim, but can’t, because she’s a woman. I don’t want that for my nieces. I wish I could teach them how to swim when they visit, but I can’t. Because I was a girl once and there was no safe space then.

It isn’t only about girls being able to compete in, say, swimming, but also sometimes, just being able to learn.

Thank you for fighting for all girls and women. Some of us who are usually quiet and who prefer to be invisible sometimes are also very grateful.

 

 

WPUK Manifesto: this is what we want

On 20th May 2019, we published our draft manifesto and asked for responses. Thank you to everyone who suggested amendments or ideas. We are delighted to publish a revised version of the manifesto.

We want to get this to every MP, MSP and AM in the country. If you agree with our demands, please make sure your political representative sees a copy.

Woman’s Place UK is a group of people from a range of backgrounds including trade unions, women’s organisations, academia and the NHS. We are united by our belief that women’s hard-won rights must be defended.

We are against all forms of discrimination. We believe in the right of everyone to live their lives free from discrimination and harassment. Women face entrenched and endemic structural inequality. This is reflected, for example, in the high levels of sexual harassment and violence against women and girls; the ‘gender’ pay gap; discrimination at work. This is why sex is a protected characteristic in the Equality Act (2010) which we believe must be defended.

This is what we want.

Economic status

Take action to achieve equal pay, such as compulsory equal pay audits, the collection of sex disaggregated data and better enforcement of the Equality Act 2010.

Introduce, as a right, a Citizens’ Pension based on the Dutch tax-funded model, payable at state pension age to each long-term resident and set at the Minimum Income Standard.

Reinstate universal child benefit for all children.

Value the caring work done by women. Invest in social infrastructure, including access to free universal childcare and adult social care.

Improve access to the labour market for women and an end to occupational segregation.

Prohibit redundancy in pregnancy and maternity; increased rates of Statutory Maternity Pay and Maternity Allowance, the right to breastfeed at work, and reinstatement of Sure Start grants.

Introduce a day one right to flexible working.

Increase levels of asylum support and protection.

Overhaul of the Universal Credit system to:

  • End the family cap that leaves children without welfare support;
  • Scrap the rape clause that forces mothers to disclose rape or coercive control;
  • Reduce the wait for payments;
  • Allow for separate payments by default;
  • Improve work incentives for second earners;
  • Restore the disregard for Maternity Allowance.

Restore the link between Local Housing Allowance and average rents.

An end to violence, harassment and abuse of women and girls

Recognise prostitution as sexually abusive exploitation which is harmful to all women and girls.

Implement the abolitionist model, criminalising those who exploit prostituted people (including pimps and sex buyers) and decriminalising the prostituted, providing practical and psychological exiting support.

Screen Shot 2019-07-01 at 10.16.28.pngRatify the Istanbul Convention.

Sustainable investment from national government, proportionate to demand, to tackle violence against women and girls (VAWG), including single-sex support services, and specialist independent services run by and for women, BME women, migrant women, disabled women, lesbians, and services tackling FGM and other harmful practices.

Highlight and tackle the harms of pornography including the exploitation of women in its production and the hostile culture it creates for all women and girls in society.

Legislate to protect women and girls from the impact of porn culture on their lives, including clear penalties for image-based sexual abuse.

End ‘No Recourse to Public Funds’ for abused migrant women, extend the Domestic Violence Rule and the Destitution and Domestic Violence Concession.

Improved access to healthcare

Free access for all women, including women in Northern Ireland and migrant women, to NHS services, including maternity care and abortion services.

Fund research and national collection of sex-specific data on women’s medical needs and the provision of woman-centred healthcare.

Implement the NHS strategy of Elimination of Mixed Sex Accommodation in hospitals.

Commit to uphold right to request a female clinician, carer or support worker and to have that request respected.

Female-only services for those with sex-specific conditions, mental health, drug and alcohol problems.

Challenge the bias in design and research which is based on a male standard to ensure that the sex-based needs and health and safety of women are properly addressed.

Education and training

Statutory provision of fully-funded and properly resourced inclusive Relationships & Sex Education taught by trained education staff.

An end to the provision of education by lobby groups and untrained or unregulated providers in all state schools and colleges. All external providers should conform to a statutory code of conduct and comply with the law including the Public Sector Equality Duty.

Introduce a duty on schools and colleges to challenge harmful gender, sex and other stereotypes.

Include women’s history and women role models as part of the statutory curriculum.

Address barriers to, and encourage representation of, women and girls in STEM and other male-dominated subjects.

Restore funding for adult education, Further Education, English as a Second Language, Higher Education, recognising the disproportionate impact these cuts have had on women.

Robust defence of the human right to freedom of speech in academia.

Take action to end sexualised violence against girls and women in education, and train teachers to tackle VAWG in schools, colleges and universities.

Law and criminal justice system

As a minimum, protect the human rights and laws we currently enjoy as European citizens.

Strengthen the Equality Act by restoring the statutory questionnaire; the duty to protect from third party harassment; and the power of tribunals to make wider recommendations. Enact Section 1 to compel action to reduce socio-economic disadvantage.

Enforce Public Sector Equality Duty and Equality Act, including duty on government and local authorities to carry out equality impact assessments of all new legislation.

Properly resource the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) to ensure effective oversight and enforcement of the Equality Act by including clear guidance on the existing legal protections for single-sex services and a commitment to strengthening them where necessary.

Enshrine UN Convention to End Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) into UK law.

Defend women’s bodily autonomy and decriminalise abortion across the UK, including Northern Ireland.

Remove barriers to the employment tribunal system including extending time limit and increasing awards.

Better treatment by police and criminal justice system of women survivors of male violence and harassment as well as improved access to justice.

Overhaul aggressive immigration laws and end the hostile environment policy

Ensure equal access to the social security and criminal justice system for all women who have experienced domestic abuse, including migrant women, regardless of their immigration status.

End the practice by the criminal justice system of allowing offenders to self-identify their sex – particularly in relation to violent and sexual offences.

Corston
For a woman-centred approach

Better support and protection for women prisoners, including pregnant women and women with mental health issues.

Implement the recommendations of the Corston and Angiolini reports and reduce the imprisonment of women.

Effective resourcing and implementation of community-based sentencing for women offenders. Where women are housed in the prison estate, accommodation must be single-sex to protect their privacy, safety and dignity.

End the detention of children and pregnant asylum seekers.

Provide adequate levels of legal aid for criminal cases, restore civil legal aid as well as aid for all immigration and asylum cases.

Representation and participation in public life/media/culture/politics/sport

Increase representation of women (especially black and minority ethnic, working class, disabled, older, younger and lesbian women) in all walks of public life, including political activities and the labour movement.

Defend the use of sex-based mechanisms such as all-women shortlists.

Reinstate UK Women’s National Commission to ensure women’s voices are heard in public debate and policy making.

Government inquiry into media reporting of VAWG.

Action to end sexist, demeaning, objectifying, stereotypical images of women and girls throughout society and in particular in media, arts, advertising and the political sphere.

Proactive encourage women to participate in sports, leisure and the arts. Women’s and girls’ sport should be funded to the same level as men’s and boys’ from school to elite sports.

Support for sex-segregated sports, promoting a level playing field for competitions and encouraging and recognising the excellence of female competitors.

Women should be supported to pursue their right to freedom of association, as enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

Read our original demands and our resolutions for 2019.

 

In defence of Michele Moore

This is the text of a letter we sent to the publisher of Disability & Society in support of Professor Michele Moore, the editor, who is being targeted because of her campaigning on rapid onset gender dysphoria (ROGD) and the rights and safeguarding of children.

Michele spoke at our Sheffield meeting and the film of her speech has been viewed nearly 26,000 times.

We are the co-founders of a campaign group called Woman’s Place UK founded to ensure women’s voices were heard in the discussions around the GRA Consultation. Our campaign has now expanded to take on concerns about oppression that women and girls face in society. We have over 19,000 followers on Twitter and have held 23 meetings which have attacted over 3,500 attendees.

We are from a range of backgrounds including trade unions, women’s organisations, academia and the NHS. We are against all forms of discrimination. We believe in the right of everyone to live their lives free from discrimination and harassment.

We are alarmed to hear of the concerted campaign against Prof. Michele Moore as a result of the questions she has been raising publicly about young people and rapid onset gender dysphoria. She is not alone in these concerns. The government itself has announced an inquiry into the very high increase of teenage girls indicating a desire to transition.

As part of our campaign we organise meetings and Prof. Michele Moore spoke at the Sheffield event. You can see the video here. It has been viewed over 25k times.

Over the last few years we have worked closely with Michele and know her to be a compassionate, knowledgeable and principled person.

Michele is also courageous, speaking out when others have been silenced, and who is motivated only by concern for the welfare of all young people. This attack on her is a deliberate and concerted attempt to silence and intimidate Michele but it will also have a silencing effect on anyone who wants to critique or question ideologies which affect our young people.

We urge you to look at Michele’s long record as an academic and equality campaigner and reject all attempts to have her removed as Editor of Disability & Society.

Thank you.

WPUK

 

 

Freedom of speech – a brief guide to the law

Please note, this is for general guidance only and to:

• give an overview of the law in general;

• provide some pointers.

If you become involved in any legal action, or anything which could become legal action (for example, if you are spoken to by the police, you receive a letter of claim or court papers), you should speak to a lawyer as soon as possible.

In this country, freedom of speech and expression is enshrined in law under the Human Rights Act 1998. Article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights, incorporated into UK law by the HRA 1998, covers the freedom to receive and impart information.

Hate speech is covered by different laws and the bar is set high. Only hate speech towards the categories of race and religion can be prosecuted as a crime in itself and that requires an incitement to hatred to be proven.

The police and Crown Prosecution Service, in general, record data on hate crimes for five characteristics, including transgender status. The list of 5 is:

• disability

• race

• religion

• sexual orientation

• transgender status

The category of transgender status is only specifically included where hatred is deemed to be a motivation of a criminal offence. This results in an increased sentence (Criminal Justice Act 2003).

Other laws that have been used to charge those accused of ‘transphobic’ speech are the Communications Act 2003, the Harassment Act 1997 and the Public Order Act 1986. All cases brought under these laws so far have been dismissed by the courts.

Intention and context (EHRC Guidance 2015) are important when assessing a hate incident, but caution should be applied.

Individual clashes, particularly ongoing ones, with a single person who has an opposing view on trans-issues and women’s rights may make a charge of harassment under the Harassment Act 1997 more likely.

Framing public comments objectively in a political discourse and referring to facts and arguments rather than personal critiques vastly increases the protection of freedom of speech under the Human Rights Act 1998.

Universities

‘No platforming’ can and should be reported to the University’s main board and they should be reminded of their duty under the Education Act 1986 section 43.

You could also refer them to this recent guidance on free speech in universities agreed by a wide coalition of bodies including the EHRC, the Department for Education, the National Union of Students and Universities UK.

Meetings

Holding a meeting anywhere to discuss the current trans debate is wholly lawful. There should be an emphasis on respect, avoidance of discussion of individuals, and no use of violent or threatening language (Communications Act 2003, Public Order Act 1986).

Knowing a little of these bits of law should be helpful if you find yourself being censored, refused a meeting or even cautioned.

The key protection is that of freedom of speech under the Human Rights Act 1998.

Further reading:

EHRC Freedom of expression legal framework

Protecting the right to freedom of expression under the European Convention on Human Rights