Use of data: WPUK submission to Public Accounts Committee

This is the text of the submission by WPUK to the Public Accounts Committee Inquiry into Challenges in using data across Government published on 16th July 2019.

About us

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.

We are concerned that government and public authorities are increasingly shifting their focus to capturing data on ‘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 2010.

2021 Census

WPUK believes that rigorous collection and analysis of sex-disaggregated data and high-quality research must be central to the development of any services, policies or actions which address women’s needs or which challenge discrimination and inequality faced by women on the ground of their sex. For this reason, data on sex collected in the census is vitally important.

We submitted evidence[1] during Stage 1 of the Census (Amendment) (Scotland) Bill, which was passed by the Scottish Parliament in June. In our submission, we expressed concern about the conflation of the distinct concepts of ‘sex’ and ‘gender identity’ both in relation to the wording of the Bill as introduced, but also in relation to the questions being developed for the 2021 Census in Scotland.

The UK census authorities are still developing the questions they will ask in the 2021 Census. WPUK is concerned that the census authorities are considering changing the way in which the sex question is posed, so that it becomes a question about gender identity, not sex.

Whilst proposing the retention of a binary (male/female) sex question, the Office for National Statistics (ONS) is proposing guidance for the sex question which encourages individuals to respond based on their self-identified gender, including those not in possession of a Gender Recognition Certificate.

We understand that the National Records of Scotland are planning to test three different versions of the sex question: a non-binary sex question (with three response options); a binary sex question, with accompanying guidance to answer on the basis of self-identification; and a binary sex question with accompanying guidance to answer on the basis of a person’s current birth certificate (which would amount to ‘legal sex’).

In our submission on the Scottish Census Bill, we also highlighted our concern that guidance accompanying the 2011 Census advised individuals who consider themselves to be transsexual or transgender to respond to the sex question based on their self-identified gender – not their biological or legal sex.

Documentation[2] relating to the development of the 2011 Census reveals that this guidance was introduced on the basis of flawed advice provided by an independent consultancy. No equality impact assessment on the sex question was carried out, as it was regarded as “a disproportionate use of resources”.

The consultancy advised ONS to issue guidance to trans people (“including those who do not have a Gender Recognition Certificate”), instructing them to respond to the sex question based on their self-identified gender.

It is therefore unknowable how many individuals read and heeded this advice and what impact that had on the quality of the data on sex captured by the 2011 Census.

Gender pay gap data

In February 2019, the UK Government Equalities Office (GEO) and Acas issued joint guidance[3] 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[4] 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[5] nor Acas[6] 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 disproportionalities exist, the GPG data could be easily skewed by just a small number of transwomen who are recorded as ‘female’.

We are aware of other datasets which have shifted to recording ‘gender identity’ rather than ‘sex’ and would be happy to send the Committee other examples.

Woman’s Place UK

July 2019

Notes:

[1] https://www.parliament.scot/S5_European/Inquiries/CTTEA_CensusBill_WomansPlaceUK_CTEEA_S5_18_CB_21.pdf

[2]https://www.ons.gov.uk/file?uri=/census/2011census/howourcensusworks/howweplannedthe2011census/questionnairedevelopment/equalityimpactassessmentsforthe2011census/eiascreeningsexandgendertcm77183984.pdf

[3] http://www.acas.org.uk/media/pdf/9/p/Managing_gender_pay_reporting_07.02.19.pdf

[4] https://womansplaceuk.org/gender-pay-gap-letter-to-penny-mordaunt/

[5] https://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/gender_pay_gap_reporting_guidanc_3

[6] https://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/gender_pay_gap_reporting_guidanc

Government Equalities Office: roadmap for change

The Government Equalities Office (GEO) has today launched a report, Gender equality at every stage: a roadmap for change’,  to tackle ‘gender’ inequality in the UK”

“The roadmap sets out the vision and actions to tackle persistent gendered inequalities, published alongside the case for change and gender equality monitor.”

GEO

Our response:

“Woman’s Place UK welcomes the Government’s commitment to tackle the inequality faced by women in this country. Discrimination against women on the ground of their sex remains rife and will only be resolved by addressing structural inequalities.

“A decade of 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. Too many 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.

“If the Government is serious about gender inequality, what we need is deeds not words.”

END

For further information, please read WPUK’s manifesto and our letter to Penny Mordaunt about the GEO’s guidance for employers on gender pay gap reporting.

WPUK Manifesto

Letter to Penny Mordaunt

FOI responses from GEO and Acas on guidance for employers on gender pay gap:

https://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/gender_pay_gap_reporting_guidanc_3

https://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/gender_pay_gap_reporting_guidanc

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.

 

WPUK Submission Labour Policy Forum: Justice & Home Affairs

We welcome the opportunity to contribute to Labour’s national policy forum consultation.

About us

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[1] 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[2] to “gender audit all policy and legislation for its impact on women before implementation” (p.109).

Background

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.

Justice and home affairs

WPUK’s draft manifesto calls for a reduction in the size of the female prison population. Across the UK, the female prison population has grown substantially over the past two decades. According to Women in Prison, 84% of women entering prison in 2017 committed a non-violent offence. The majority of women in prison are the victims of male violence and have been experienced emotional, physical or sexual abuse during childhood.

These issues were highlighted in a report by Labour peer Baroness Jean Corston[3], published in 2007. The report made a series of wide-ranging recommendations with the aim of reducing the number of women in prison. Five years later, Dame Elish Angiolini published the report[4] of the Commission on Women Offenders in Scotland, which made similar recommendations. Both reports recommended increased use of community sentences for women and sustainable funding for community based services for women.

Unfortunately, the female prison population has not declined in any significant way since and women in prison remain one of the most vulnerable groups in society.

In recent years, both the Ministry of Justice (MoJ) and the Scottish Prison Service (SPS) have introduced policies that enable prisoners to request to be accommodated on the basis of their ‘gender identity’ not their sex. A number of male prisoners who identify as women have been placed in the female prison estate. One prisoner, Karen White[5] – a convicted rapist – was housed in a female prison in Yorkshire, where they sexually assaulted female prisoners.

Last year, campaign group Fair Play For Women[6] established that up to half of male-born trans prisoners are likely to be sex offenders or violent criminals. It also emerged that the Equality Impact Assessment undertaken by the SPS did not consider the impact of the policy on female prisoners or prison officers.

Women in prison are an exceptionally vulnerable group. Most have been the victims of male violence. Ensuring their physical and psychological safety as well as their privacy and dignity and up must be paramount. This can best be achieved by maintaining single sex prisons and we hope that any future review of current policies in force in the UK will take account of this.

WPUK manifesto demands on justice and home affairs:

  • 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 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.
  • 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.

Woman’s Place UK

June 2019

[1] https://womansplaceuk.org/2019/05/20/this-is-what-we-want-the-wpuk-manifesto/

[2] https://labour.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2017/10/labour-manifesto-2017.pdf

[3] https://webarchive.nationalarchives.gov.uk/20130206102659/http:/www.justice.gov.uk/publications/docs/corston-report-march-2007.pdf

[4] https://www2.gov.scot/Resource/0039/00391588.pdf

[5] https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-leeds-45825838

[6] https://fairplayforwomen.com/prisons/

WPUK Submission Labour Policy Forum: Health & Social care

We welcome the opportunity to contribute to Labour’s national policy forum consultation.

About us

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[1] 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[2] to “gender audit all policy and legislation for its impact on women before implementation” (p.109).

Background

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.

Health and social care

Addressing women’s healthcare needs

WPUK’s draft manifesto calls for the funding of research and national collection of data on women’s medical needs, and the provision of woman-centred healthcare.

In her book Invisible Women, Caroline Criado Perez critiques the systematic bias of a world that has been designed around the needs of men. She cites several examples where this bias has adverse consequences for women’s health. For instance, women are 50% more like to be misdiagnosed, and more likely to die than a man if they have a heart attack. She also highlights clinical trials that exclude women. One clinical trial excluded women on the basis that they have periods which would impact the findings.

Criado Perez makes a powerful case for tackling this bias through the use of sex disaggregated data. We strongly support the need for sex-disaggregated data and are extremely concerned about the shift by public authorities to collect data on ‘self-identified gender’ rather than sex.

In WPUK’s evidence[3] to the Scottish Parliament on the Census (Amendment) (Scotland) Bill, we emphasised the importance of collecting robust data on sex. We are therefore clear that the 2021 Census must retain a binary sex question based on a clear definition of sex, not least so that public bodies can fulfil their obligations as part of the Public Sector Equality Duty.

Without a clear picture of the number of men and women in the population, we cannot properly plan health services for our communities. Nor can we collect reliable data that enables statisticians to chart the incidences of and plan healthcare responses to diseases that affect women. Collecting sex-disaggregated data is also a requirement[4] of CEDAW signatories (General Recommendation 9).

Single sex wards

A driving force behind the establishment of WPUK was the recognition that women still need and want women-only spaces and services, for reasons of safety, privacy and dignity.

The NHS in England and Wales is notionally committed to the elimination of mixed sex wards. However, the elevation of ‘gender identity’ over sex in NHS documents[5] means that this commitment rings hollow, as NHS providers now permit individuals to be accommodated on hospital wards based on their ‘self-identified gender’, not their sex. The incidence of sexual assaults on mixed sex wards is well-documented[6].

Right to request female healthcare worker

A survey[7] of 2,000 women undertaken by Women and Girls Scotland sought to quantify the potential for women’s self-exclusion from spaces and services that were opened up to men who identify as women. Many respondents highlighted their reluctance to use such spaces and services, and some indicated that they were already self-excluding on this basis.

The same report highlighted that the two largest NHS Boards in Scotland confirmed to the report’s authors that they could not guarantee that a woman’s request for a female healthcare provider would be honoured, due to the fact that the provisions of the Gender Recognition Act 2004 prevented the disclosure of someone’s transgender status.

Women must be able to request a female healthcare provider and expect that that request will be honoured. We cannot risk women self-excluding from essential healthcare services.

WPUK manifesto demands on health and social care:

  • Free access for all women, including women in Northern Ireland and migrant women, to NHS services, including maternity care and abortion services; the right to bodily autonomy
  • 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 the 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.

Woman’s Place UK

June 2019

[1] https://womansplaceuk.org/2019/05/20/this-is-what-we-want-the-wpuk-manifesto/

[2] https://labour.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2017/10/labour-manifesto-2017.pdf

[3] https://womansplaceuk.org/wpuk-submission-to-scottish-census-consultation/

[4] https://www.un.org/womenwatch/daw/cedaw/recommendations/recomm.htm?fbclid=IwAR3lQYxyXUHbVdk5i4lhxAIEPZTVdozLZ-yRO8aCu7nsMnJ5NZJjzHJLu3w

[5] https://medium.com/@anneharperwright/sex-gender-the-nhs-1e8f4e6363a6

[6] https://academic.oup.com/shm/article/31/4/732/5166746

[7] https://wgscotland.org.uk/reports/

WPUK Submission Labour Policy Forum: work, pensions & equality

We welcome the opportunity to contribute to Labour’s national policy forum consultation.

About us

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[1] 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[2] to “gender audit all policy and legislation for its impact on women before implementation” (p.109).

Background

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[3] 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[4] 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[5] nor Acas[6] 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[7] 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[8] 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[9] 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[10] 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[11][12] 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[13] 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

June 2019

[1] https://womansplaceuk.org/2019/05/20/this-is-what-we-want-the-wpuk-manifesto/

[2] https://labour.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2017/10/labour-manifesto-2017.pdf

[3] http://www.acas.org.uk/media/pdf/9/p/Managing_gender_pay_reporting_07.02.19.pdf

[4] https://womansplaceuk.org/gender-pay-gap-letter-to-penny-mordaunt/

[5] https://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/gender_pay_gap_reporting_guidanc_3

[6] https://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/gender_pay_gap_reporting_guidanc

[7]  https://www.un.org/womenwatch/daw/cedaw/recommendations/recomm.htm?fbclid=IwAR3lQYxyXUHbVdk5i4lhxAIEPZTVdozLZ-yRO8aCu7nsMnJ5NZJjzHJLu3w

[8] https://rapecrisis.org.uk/get-informed/rcew-statistics/

[9] https://www.womensaid.org.uk/routes-to-support/

[10] https://www.womensaid.org.uk/womens-aid-annual-survey-reports/

[11] http://data.parliament.uk/writtenevidence/committeeevidence.svc/evidencedocument/women-and-equalities-committee/enforcing-the-equality-act-the-law-and-the-role-of-the-equality-and-human-rights-commission/oral/92165.pdf

[12] http://data.parliament.uk/writtenevidence/committeeevidence.svc/evidencedocument/women-and-equalities-committee/enforcing-the-equality-act-the-law-and-the-role-of-the-equality-and-human-rights-commission/oral/102570.html?fbclid=IwAR11FNyNIoLMRSTP1f2txrnM-NXuJDQIoRol-I3aOo_epk9h9VtQvs9Q2Gc

[13] https://mbmpolicy.wordpress.com/2019/02/22/the-case-for-due-diligence-assessing-and-owning-policy-and-practice/