Updated: Aug 19, 2020
We are writing today to raise the following issues that need due consideration for WEP to facilitate a balanced and robust consultation process. We ask that you circulate this email to both the policy and steering committee members.
We ask for a swift response. We appreciate this is very urgent due to the time frame proposed by WEP.
Given the amount of time that WEP has taken to conclude the first part of the process, we believe the current time frame for the next stages needs to be extended. We ask that WEP acknowledges that August presents many barriers to equitable participation. Not only may many members be taking their holidays, but it is an especially challenging time of year for members with children or other care duties. We know the huge impact COVID has had on the availability of child care and social care, as well as the additional burden it has placed on women. It is vital that this consultation enables and facilitates inclusion and is timed in a way that maximises member participation. We therefore ask for the following:
i) Applications to the advisory group should be extended by a minimum of two weeks. Members have contacted us to say that this feels rushed.
ii) The advisory group should not start until the school term begins. Preferably when the schools have committed to a full time, school-based timetable. This will enable members to balance commitments.
iii) Three days to select witnesses is not adequate. The quality of witnesses will impact directly on the quality of information and the quality of the consultation.
2. Committee balance:
Members must have faith that the process is balanced.
i) There must be two chairs, one from each position.
ii) The committee must have six members that represent the feminist perspective of retaining sex as a legally and socially understood characteristic.
3. Freedom to exchange information:
The preamble to the constitution has the sentence;
“WE also recognise that the binary words “woman” and “man” do not reflect the gender experience of everyone in our country, and support the right of all to define their sex or gender or to reject gendered divisions as they choose.”
This is ambiguous and potentially can be used to stop branch social media accounts from sharing articles that communicate the negative impact that sex self ID has on women and on broader legislative rights for women and girls. The Party has referred to this sentence as the ‘party position'. With this sentence in place, open, fact-based communication is infringed. We have been contacted by branch officers who feel confused and concerned about their ability to accurately give a balanced view to their branch followers and members.
We are therefore clear that the following needs to happen to ensure an open consultation:
i) To temporarily suspend this sentence until WEP has adopted a member-led position.
ii) To include the entirety of the Policy Document in the consultation and not just the 7 Policy Areas
iii) To ensure the wording is not ambiguous and is legally clear.
iv) To remind all party members of the code of conduct namely 3.4 and 3.4.1. (Refusal of revocation of membership and status as a registered supporter). We ask for a clear and unequivocal statement citing the specific example of TERF. We also consider accusations of transphobia unacceptable.
v) To make a clear pledge to women that any harassment they receive as a direct result of being involved in this process will have the protection of WEP and any members harassing women will be disciplined as described in the code of conduct.
vi) To publish all complaints policy and procedure so members are aware of their rights and WEP’s obligations to provide transparent due process.
We look forward to a swift response within the next 48 hrs so we can resolve these issues and move forward towards an equitable process that builds both quality and lasting policy.
In good faith,
WEP WOMEN’S SEX BASED RIGHTS CAUCUS