General election: Labour ‘putting women at risk’ with manifesto trans pledge The Sunday Times 24.11.19

The original article is here.

Labour has been criticised for placing women at risk with its confused policy on transgender rights.

It tried to please both sides in the gender-identity debate by pledging in its manifesto to reform the Gender Recognition Act to introduce self-declaration for transgender people, while at the same time promising to keep legal exemptions protecting single-sex spaces.

That was not the final word on the matter, however, and in the next two days its position appeared to unravel.

Dawn Butler, the shadow women and equalities secretary, issued a statement on Twitter saying “there is no way spaces will be permitted to discriminate against trans people. That is illegal and it will stay illegal.”

After a backlash from women’s groups, Butler tried to clarify her position by tweeting a 2018 letter arguing that “reform of the Gender Recognition Act does not affect access to single-sex services and facilities”.

Ruth Serwotka, co-founder of Woman’s Place, a campaign group that defends women’s rights, it was “really troubling to see [a progressive step forward on women’s rights] being undermined by staff and some MPs in the Labour Party who are determined to push transgender issues to the detriment of women”. She added: “They need to make sure spokespeople who support and understand the manifesto on women’s issues are at the front in advocating for women.”

She was also critical of the Liberal Democrat manifesto. “They have entirely abandoned women by accepting the idea that men can identify as women and access women’s spaces and services. This is not equality, it is men’s rights activism.”

Labour issued a statement insisting it would amend the law to protect “gender identity” rather than “gender assignment” — yet would continue to allow for separate and single-sex services, provided they were justified.

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