Government Commitments on Single Sex Exemptions

 The government response to the petition to the government by Amy Desir  (and reported in the Sunday Times and the Independent), making commitments to women’s legal rights by Penny Mordaunt are welcome. Given the proposals made by the Women & Equalities Select Committee Transgender Inquiry chaired by Maria Miller, to remove the single sex exemptions, we are pleased that the government has committed to upholding these rights under equality law.

This was one of our five demands.

This is a significant commitment to uphold women’s rights as they currently exist under the law. This was one of our 5 demands and we are glad the government is finally listening.

However, we know that single sex exemptions are under-used because women are not aware they exist or because service providers and organisations are not invoking them. We believe that it may be necessary to strengthen and extend these exemptions in light of the persistent and growing discrimination and oppression of women and girls in our society.

That’s why we are also calling for a review of how the exemptions in the Equality Act which allow for single sex services or requirements that only a woman can apply for a job (such as in a domestic violence refuge) are being applied in practice.

 

We believe that they will be further compromised should self-identification become law. We are therefore also calling on the Government to consult with women’s organisations on how self-declaration would impact on women-only services and spaces.

Assessing the impact of new laws on existing rights is not only reasonable, it is the very least we have a right to expect.

We believe that all the grassroots organising that has taken place in the last couple of years has had a significant impact on the plans government originally had. We are grateful to everyone who has supported the demands of women in the movement.

We cannot forget, though, the failure of so many to help build a space for this debate to take place safely and without threat or harassment. We are astonished at the silence of so many around the threat of, and actual, violence against women organising to assert their rights.

Our first demand was for “respectful and evidence-based discussion about the impact of the proposed changes to the Gender Recognition Act to be allowed to take place and for women’s voices to be heard.”
The only reason any discussion has taken place is because women have fought for the space to be heard, often at personal cost and in the face of horrendous abuse and threat. There are many documented cases of the times and places this has happened but the most recent incident of a bomb threat at a meeting in Hastings is perhaps the most sinister.

If Penny Mordaunt and other political representatives are serious about facilitating a respectful and inclusive debate then they must step up and condemn acts of real and threatened abuse and violence. They must also create the space in which everyone can make their voices heard.

To fail in this will make the consultation a sham and its findings unreliable and dangerous.

We look forward to the consultation and will be issuing guidance shortly.

You can see all 5 of our demands here

You can read more about us here.