Campus feminists censured for excluding trans students The Telegraph 13.03.21

The original article is here.

A university feminist society has been disciplined for excluding trans women from talks and debates about rape and sexual assault.

Women Talk Back hosted women-only meetings at Bristol University to discuss male violence against females, and argued the presence of men could make attendees fearful to speak out.

The students refused entry to male-born transgender people who self-identify as women, classed as men under equality laws unless they have changed their legal sex.

Now Bristol Students’ Union has ordered the society’s president, Raquel Rosario-Sanchez, to stand down and banned her from union leadership posts for two years.

And committee members must complete an “equality, diversity and inclusion” course.

The society’s 73 members have written to Gavin Williamson, the education secretary, urging him to take action under new free speech powers to combat “unacceptable silencing and censoring” on campuses.

A student filed a formal complaint against the society last year after a trans woman was shut out from a campus meeting on “women’s boundaries” in law, culture and society.

Ms Rosario-Sanchez had cited the Equality Act 2010 which lists biological sex as a protected characteristic, meriting single-sex spaces.

But students’ union officials ruled in February that the student was discriminated against and the incident was “extremely harmful” to them.

The society was told that Bristol SU defines women as “all who self-define as women, including (if they wish) those with complex gender identities that include ‘woman’, and those who experience oppression as women”.

Ms Rosario-Sanchez, 30, a PhD student, said: “Women have a right to single-sex spaces when we are talking about sensitive matters. We want to use that law so any woman can have a space to talk and be respected and believed.

“There is this climate where people think they have a right to censor and silence the free speech of others. It’s happening to us and so many students, but universities are becoming weaker and weaker.”

A Bristol SU spokeswoman said: “The [society’s] behaviour was found to be in breach of the Bristol SU code of conduct, and the complaints panel decided that it is appropriate to apply sanctions to the group.”

Peter Daly, a discrimination lawyer at Doyle Clayton, warned sex and gender identity have been “conflated and confused”, with the latter not a protected characteristic under equality laws.

“Institutions that misunderstand or misapply these concepts risk implementing policies that are at variance with the law,” he said.

Two in five LGBT students have hidden their identity at university for fear of discrimination, according to the charity Stonewall.

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