Woman’s Place UK Oxford meeting

 

Woman’s Place UK is facing an orchestrated attempt by Oxford University student activists to shut down one of their public meetings in Oxford tonight about changes to transgender laws [1].
WPUK challenge politicians to defend free speech.
Previous meetings, attended by ordinary women, have been targeted with masked activists, harassment, violence and abuse. The women want to meet to discuss questions about proposed changes to transgender laws which they worry could erode legal protections for women and girls. Trans people are welcome at all the meetings, and WPUK have already had two trans speakers on the platform [2] who share the concerns.
The Oxford meeting is now facing a campaign by Oxford University Student Union societies and officers, who have issued a statement [3] containing many inaccuracies and calling on the University to condemn the meeting, and urges students not to attend. We believe this statement defames Woman’s Place UK and our speakers, and we are seeking legal advice.
The students’ call to shut down the WPUK meeting comes days after a 26-year-old “trans activist” was convicted of assault by beating a 60-year old woman at another meeting to discuss transgender laws [4]. Last week, at another feminist meeting in Bristol, masked protesters physically blocked women from entering the meeting [5]. Every meeting WPUK has organised has faced a campaign of harassment [6].

WPUK said the threat of Oxford students shutting down debate about changes in the law was a test of politician’s commitment to free speech. Numerous high profile people have spoken out for free speech at universities, such as Universities Minister Sam Gyimah, Harriet Harman, Chris Patten and Sir Michael Barber, chairman of the new Office for Students [7].

A spokeswoman for Woman’s Place UK said:

“Politicians from Sam Gyimah to Harriet Harman say they back free speech, especially among students. It’s time for them to put their money where their mouths are and stand up for women holding peaceful, respectful debates about matters of public interest.

“We’re not insisting that they agree with everything we say, just that they let us speak and let people listen to our questions.
“We are ordinary women who just want to meet to talk about the our legal rights, and so we ask politicians to stand up for our right to speak and be heard.”
University leaders like Chris Patten, Lord Chancellor of Oxford University, also need to maintain their support for free speech among students, the women said.
“Chris Patten has always said Oxford students should hear all sides of an argument instead of closing their minds. We hope he will remind his students of the need for open debate and free inquiry on sex and gender too,” said WPUK.

Woman’s Place UK is one of the leading organisations who are speaking up to defend the rights of women and girls to safety, dignity and privacy. WPUK meetings have been growing in size and have taken place in London, Manchester, Bristol, Edinburgh, Cambridge, Cardiff, and Birmingham, with more meetings announced in Cornwall and Newcastle, and more being planned. 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. See our five demands on our website here: https://womansplaceuk.org/ and follow us on twitter @Womans_Place_UK

Ends

 

Notes to Editors
[1] A Woman’s Place Is Ours To Define, public meeting, tonight at 7pm in Oxford (venue tbc): https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/a-womans-place-is-ours-to-define-tickets-43753006420
[2] Transwomen Kristina Harrison and Debbie Hayton have both spoken from the platform at WPUK meetings. A film of Kristina’s speech is here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FPdhIjWgKFg&t=73s
 

[3] Statement by Oxford Student Union LGBTQ Campaign:

(all comments by women who are defending WPUK and correcting the inaccuracies are being deleted from this Facebook page)
Open letter signed by Oxford Student Union and NUS officials:
[4] Trans attacker is a thug says feminist, The Times, 14 April 2018:
Footage of the attack in September 2017:
[5] Footage of masked trans activists physically preventing women, including journalists, from entering another feminist meeting on 19 April 2018:
[6] For previous difficulties Woman’s Place UK have faced organising our meetings see this Spectator article here: https://www.spectator.co.uk/2018/03/transgender-activists-and-the-real-war-on-women/  and this article abour our Cambridge meeting here: https://www.socfem.net/2017/11/a-womans-place-is-on-the-platform

[7] Sir Michael Barber, chairman of the new Office for Students, which gets its legal powers in April, has said: “Ensuring freedom of speech and learning how to disagree with diverse opinions and differing views of the world is a fundamental aspect of learning at university. The OfS will promote it vigorously.”

Source for Barber quote: https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2017/10/19/universities-told-must-commit-free-speech-new-plans/

Universities Minister Sam Gyimah has warned of a “creeping culture of censorship” on university campuses.

Source: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/education-43544546

Harriet Harman, chairwoman of the joint committee on human rights, had called for the defence of “freedom of expression” and warned “there is a problem of inhibition of free speech in universities”.

Chris Patten has spoken up about censorship previously saying: “One of the points of a university – which is not to tolerate intolerance, to engage in free inquiry and debate – is being denied”.
Background:
The government announced a consultation in July 2017, to start in ‘the Autumn’, about proposals to reform the Gender Recognition Act 2004: https://www.gov.uk/…/ne…/new-action-to-promote-lgbt-equality. Due to huge controversy, the consultation has since been delayed and has still not been announced. The proposals are to ‘demedicalise’ the process of changing ‘gender’, so that people can self-identify as the opposite sex and legally become that sex, without any need for a medical diagnosis of gender dysphoria, or to transition or have surgery.

These proposals are controversial as organisations such as Woman’s Place UK argue that self-identification of transgender people will disadvantage women and may mean the end of single-sex spaces. It will make it harder to gather accurate data on the pay gap between the sexes, domestic violence against women, and the health services they require. Self-identification may also mean the end of women-only hospital wards and other spaces where a male presence would be unwelcome, such as changing rooms and toilets.

Some transsexuals also oppose the proposed GRA reforms as they see them as a threat to transsexuals who transition and suffer from gender dysphoria. Trans people have spoken at WPUK meetings, from the platform and from the audience. See also
https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/transgender-women-criticise-reform-xtp9n6mn0