It's been promised for two years now, but finally the consultation process has begun. Sort of.
If you're not sure what I'm talking about, here's a potted history.
At the party conference in 2018, a motion was proposed that WEP support changes to the Gender Recognition Act and, amongst other things, promote the adoption in law of 'self-determination of gender' - AKA self-ID. You can read the full motion put forward here:
Interestingly, the first line of the motion is 'The Women’s Equality Party recognises the damage done by socially constructed gender stereotypes and supports changes to the Gender Recognition Act 2004.' So, we're of an accord when it comes to understanding that gender is not a helpful construct for any of us. And it's always worth pointing out here that no feminist who's ever fallen in love with this party and coughed up subs is any sort of bigot, nor do they want life for trans people to be any harder than it is.
It should be of no surprise that, during the debate that followed the proposal, many delegates raised concerns that adopting a system of self-ID could negatively impact on other areas of legislation such as the Equality Act 2010 and the Single Sex Exemptions therein (Fair Play for Women have a really useful explainer of all of that here. But, essentially, the EA defines women and girls by their biology and sometimes, in some very important circumstances, that's a necessary distinction).
It was agreed that the motion could not be ratified at that point but it was 'referred back', so that it might be given further consideration. WEP then said this was something they felt warranted a wider discussion and a consultation was promised. Two years passed ...
It's been a long two years, and Mandu Reid has apologised for this delay. She said it was down to a combination of two elections and a pandemic, plus a desire to 'get it right'.
But there's no doubt that this time lapse has cost the party dearly. Many members have left because of what they have perceived as a lack of action from WEP and silence during a heated and, frankly, bloody important debate about women's rights. The comments on our petition are testament to that.
So it was with glad hearts and no small amount of trepidation that we read an email from Central Office confirming that the consultation process has begun. The email was light on detail and we had A LOT of questions. This is important. We've been rallying each other with the mantra 'HANG ON TIL CONSULTATION' every time another member wobbled and wondered if they should just cancel their membership and put their time and money to good use elsewhere. Some have left but are still invested in the party and waiting watchfully to see what the outcome of this will be.
We wrote to Central Office. We'd emailed Mandu before, introducing ourselves and highlighting the growing signatures on the WEP Declaration of Sex-Based Rights. Later, then asking for a response to Liz Truss's rumoured announcement, see the previous blog entry. We had never had a response. So this time we emailed everyone we could find an email for. We asked the aforementioned truck load of questions. You can see our letter below (it's quite long) and the response (hurrah) from Bea Gare, Chair of the Steering Committee, too.
I'll summarise. We asked how this is all going to work, said it needs to be fair, safe and open and suggested a lot of ways that could happen. We also raised some concerns about bias and lack of clarity. WEP said that we can and should get involved, that they plan on 'randomly selecting' members to be involved at various stages and that we could ask more questions in the online meeting about the consultation on Friday 22nd. Well, we did. There's a post about that to follow. We also have more questions that we are formally submitting and will post our response to Bea Gare here as soon as we send it.
If you have any comments, thoughts or ideas about how we can ensure this consultation is effective and fair, or if you want us to make representations for you please get in touch with us. We know this isn't easy for many women to talk about. We're here and WE can and will support each other. At least we can say, finally, the ball is rolling.