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.
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.
Ratify 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.
Better support and protection for women prisoners, including pregnant women and women with mental health issues.
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.
We welcome the opportunity to contribute to Labour’s national policy forum consultation.
Woman’s Place UK (WPUK) is a grassroots feminist campaign which was formed by a group of women in the labour and trade union movement to uphold women’s sex-based rights and protections in the UK. Since September 2017, we have held 22 public meetings across the UK which have been attended by over 3,500 people.
Initially, our aim was to enable a diverse range of women’s voices to be heard on the UK and Scottish Government’s proposed reforms to the Gender Recognition Act 2004. However, we are increasingly concerned with upholding and advancing women’s sex-based rights. We have recently published a draft manifesto for women.
As architects of landmark UK legislation on sex discrimination previous Labour governments can lay claim to a strong track record on tackling the structural inequalities faced by women. We would like to see Labour acting as a catalyst to reinvigorate debate and discussion about how to uphold and advance women’s sex-based rights.
We particularly welcomed the commitment in Labour’s 2017 manifesto to “gender audit all policy and legislation for its impact on women before implementation” (p.109).
A decade of Tory-led austerity has hollowed out our public services and women, in particular working class women, have borne the brunt of this. Women are over-represented in public sector employment, which has been subject to year-on-year budget cuts. More women are engaged in precarious forms of employment. Funding for services that they rely upon – such as Sure Start and domestic violence refuges – has been subjected to annual local authority budget cuts. And it is women who so often plug the care gap when these services are diminished or disappear altogether.
We are concerned about the absence of any class-based analysis in the public debate about persistent discrimination faced by women on the ground of their sex. It is impossible to assess and tackle the structural inequalities suffered by women if we cannot recognise women as the oppressed sex. It is against this backdrop that we wish to raise a number of concerns about the challenges facing women in our communities.
Equality Act 2010
The Equality Act (EA) 2010 is the legal cornerstone of women’s existing rights to fair treatment, and to privacy and dignity in services provided to them. Passed by a Labour government, the foremother of the EA was the Sex Discrimination Act (SDA) 1975. The Act defined a woman as a female of any age, a definition carried forward to the Equality Act 2010.
The fundamental belief underlying the SDA was that the physical and social consequences of being born and living with a female body are so significant that women deserve specific protections in law, including the right in certain circumstances to single-sex services and spaces. The SDA stated clearly that it was concerned with discrimination against a woman “on the ground of her sex”.
However, in recent years, the exemptions provided for under the EA 2010 – and indeed the very definition of what it means to be a woman – have come under pressure. Governments and public authorities are increasingly shifting their focus to capturing data and planning services on the basis of ‘gender identity’ rather than sex. We believe that this shift, left unchecked, will have grave consequences for women’s sex-based rights as enshrined, primarily, in the Equality Act. Below we consider the implications of this conceptual shift on women in our communities.
Work, pensions and equality
Gender pay gap
WPUK’s draft manifesto seeks concrete steps from Government to achieve equal pay, such as compulsory equal pay audits, the collection of sex disaggregated data and better enforcement under the Equality Act 2010.
In February 2019, the UK Government Equalities Office (GEO) and Acas issued joint guidance to employers on how to report on their gender pay gap (GPG). The guidance instructs employers to gather data based on their employees’ ‘self-identified gender’ not their sex. WPUK wrote to Women and Equalities Minister Penny Mordaunt MP in April 2019, asking her to review this guidance.
It has since emerged that neither the GEO nor Acas made any assessment of the impact of this guidance on the quality of the data and how it might impact on our ability to measure the scale of discrimination against women. For instance, as highlighted in Caroline Criado Perez’s book Invisible Women, the tech industry is heavily dominated by men. In industries where such stark disproportions exist, the GPG data could be easily skewed by just a small number of transwomen who are recorded as ‘female’.
Services for women subjected to sexual and domestic violence and abuse, including prostitution
It is critical that actions to address sexual and domestic violence, including prostitution, remain addressed within a strategy to end men’s violence against women and girls recognising that women and girls are disproportionately the victims of these crimes. Men’s violence against women and girls is both a cause and consequence of sex inequality. The Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Violence Against Women (CEDAW) General Recommendation 19 highlights that violence against women “is a form of discrimination that seriously inhibits women’s ability to enjoy rights and freedoms on a basis of equality with men.” And that gender-based violence, which impairs or nullifies the enjoyment by women of human rights and fundamental freedoms under general international law or under human rights conventions, is discrimination.
Independent, specialist services for women who have been subjected to domestic and sexual violence are not resourced to levels sufficient to meet demand, many have suffered under annual local authority budget cuts and the failure of local authorities to recognise the importance of specialist independent survives to victim-survivors.
- Rape Crisis England and Wales specialist services were accessed by 78,461 individuals in 2017-18 – an increase of 17% from 2016-17. 93% of service users were female.
- The number of refuge bed spaces in England falls short of the minimum number recommended by the Council of Europe by 1,715 bed spaces.
- 31% of services responding to Women’s Aid’s annual survey in 2018 reported that since 2014 they have had to reduce the amount of support (in terms of staff time) they are able to give to each service user due to funding.
The single sex exceptions under the Equality Act 2010 enable the provision of women-only services. However, evidence to the Women and Equalities Committee’s current inquiry Enforcing the Equality Act: the law and the role of the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) suggested that there is a lack of awareness amongst service providers about the circumstances in which they can use these single sex exceptions. During an oral evidence session on 20 May 2019, it became clear that umbrella body Women’s Aid (England) had not produced guidance for its members on the operation of the single sex exceptions since the Equality Act 2010 came into force.
Guidance produced by Scottish Women’s Aid with a number of other voluntary sector organisations suggests that any women who objected to sharing a service with a transwoman should be “educated…much in the same way that we would if we received comments regarding other service user’s ethnicity, religious affiliation or sexual orientation”.
We would like to see all service providers working in this area issued with clear guidance on how and when they can invoke the single sex exceptions.
WPUK manifesto demands on work, pensions and equality:
- 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.
- 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.
- Ratify 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.
Woman’s Place UK
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.
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.
The rapid growth of a vibrant movement of women in Scotland has been inspirational, and to see that movement properly represented by incredibly brave politicians moves us beyond words. We recall our Edinburgh meeting held in association with Women’s Spaces in Scotland in February 2018, outside of which transactivist protestors banged pots and pans, in an effort to drown out women’s voices, including those of survivors of sexual abuse.
We are therefore delighted to publish the statement of Joan McAlpine MSP on the announcement in Holyrood on Reforming the Gender Recognition Act:
There is much to welcome in Shirley-Anne Somerville’s statement on reforming the Gender Recognition Act. It is a significant win for the independent grassroots female rights groups who have worked so hard to point out the flaws in the rush towards ‘sex self-identification’.
Women and Girls Scotland, Susan Sinclair of Scottish Women and For Women Scotland should all take credit for campaigning so hard, with no funds at all, to achieve some of these concessions. It was a real David and Goliath struggle when you consider that they were up against professional campaign groups who receive six figure funding packages from government.
It’s very good news that the draft bill will be subject to a full consultation including, crucially, a full Equality Impact Assessment. The ‘partial’ EQIA for the previous consultation was described as “very poor”. In my experience, Equality Impact Assessments are variable in quality. This one needs to be rigorous and look carefully at the impact on women through the protected characteristic of sex.
The EQIA should also look at how the protected characteristics of religion and belief and sexual orientation might be impacted by changes in the law. I am thinking particularly of religious women and lesbian women who wish to exclude people born male from social activities.
I also welcome the government’s decision to replace the LGBT Youth Scotland transgender guidance for schools, which was shown to have a negative impact on the privacy and dignity of girls, as well as the government’s recognition that statistics on sex matters. For too long public authorities have failed to distinguish between sex and gender and this must change. I hope the working group set up to consider this will advise a change in the collection of crime statistics according to sex self-identification. It should be possible for people to choose a gender marker in addition to biological sex.
I continue to oppose the proposal that will allow any man to identify as a female, without the current medical diagnosis, and change the sex on their birth certificate. Most people identifying as ‘transwomen’ still have male genitals. I asked the Cabinet Secretary if this would mean that someone with a history of violence against women could change sex and she seemed to indicate that he could. I think most women will find this offensive.
The GRA gives such people privacy protections. While the Cabinet Secretary pointed out that disclosure certificates would legally oblige someone who committed a crime under a previous gender identity to reveal this, that is only in certain circumstances, such as applying for work. Such a person could still present themselves as female in many other aspects of life.
The Cabinet Secretary pointed out that gender recognition has been around since 2005 and did not require medical treatment. This is quite correct, but it was intended for transsexuals, which is what the European Court of Human Rights ruling of 2002 on which it was based actually spelled out. It did not insist on hormones or surgery because it was argued that some people may not be able to do that for health reasons. The gatekeeping of a medical diagnoses was and is an appropriate safeguard. The Cabinet Secretary talked about the penalties for someone falsely declaring themselves transgender. But since we no longer have any definition of transgender, as there is no diagnosis or evaluation process, I cannot see how this would work.
I am pleased the Cabinet Secretary emphasised that the Equality Act 2010 Single Sex Exemptions for women would remain in place. These exemptions are wide ranging. However, her emphasis on this was very different from the message being put out by the government’s third sector Equality partners. Scottish Trans Alliance, The Equality Network and their supporters have repeatedly said that transwomen can access single sex spaces already, and the exemptions are extremely limited. The TIE letter, which was widely publicised, also made this erroneous claim. This is wrong as many lawyers have pointed out. I hope they will now heed the Cabinet Secretary’s statement that women have a legal right to their own space and services. This is not just to ensure safety, but privacy, dignity and personal choice.
Unfortunately, because of a long running misinformation campaign, most organisations do not understand single sex exemptions and do not enforce them, hence the ludicrous guidance in Glasgow about allowing cross-dressing males to access female classes and changing rooms. I asked the Cabinet Secretary to review how the Equality Act works in Scotland and to issue guidance. She pointed out it is reserved, which is quite right. But there is no reason why the government cannot review how it operates to ensure women’s sex-based rights are honoured. I intend to follow up on this point in writing.
I hope the consultation examines the term “international best practice”. This term has been defined by trans activists, not women. Who decides best practice? Some of the countries that have introduced self-ID do not have strong women’s movements or women’s rights. For example, Malta and Argentina have very restricted access to abortions. Ireland has extensive opt-outs from self-ID on the basis of sex. All this needs to be forensically examined. What we do know is that “internationally” women are only now fighting back against creeping sex self-identification caused by well-funded lobby groups capturing policy at high levels. The fight against this by women has just begun and Scotland is at the forefront.
Feminists believe gender is a social construct, not an inner feeling in one’s head. People should be able to express their gender in any way they wish, but their biological sex is immutable and important for all sorts of things, not least healthcare. But there is a more fundamental reason still why women have concerns. Gender identity presumes a set of stereotypes linked to sex, the idea of ‘boy things’ and ‘girl things’, which is not progressive.
Women cannot identify out of FGM or maternal mortality or the gender pay gap. Neither are we defined by our sex. One of the strengths of feminism since the 1960s has been women’s ability to organise as a sex class by excluding men. That could be everything from consciousness raising, assertiveness training, to political or cultural activity. Including males in these groups can change the dynamic as they have been socialised in a different way, have different experiences and, to put it bluntly, they can dominate. That does not necessarily change if they identify as female.
If women wish to welcome trans-identifying males into these circles then that is, of course, fine. But they must also have a right to exclude them if they wish. Women are socialised to be passive, accommodating and nice. They are pressurised to do things that make them feel uncomfortable. Feminism is about telling women to be assertive and stand up for themselves.
They should not be ‘gaslighted’ into putting male feelings before female rights.
And they should certainly not be pressurised into believing that a man who says he is a woman is somehow more marginalised than women themselves.
That just turns oppression on its head.
Joan McAlpine MSP
WPUK share the concerns of Joan McAlpine MSP that single-sex exemptions are underused and inadequately understood and that ‘international best practice’ has been used in an effort around the world to introduce legislation without adequate scrutiny .
We are pleased to hear the Scottish Government commitment to proper scrutiny and consultation. As McAlpine says, “it is a significant win for the unfunded independent grassroots female rights groups”.
Scottish women made this happen and all major political parties should pay attention to the strength of feeling amongst women voters.
Find out more about the grassroots female rights groups in Scotland: