Letter Two- A letter to our leaders...
In the name of transparency we continue to publish all of our communications with WEP central office.
WE write to you today as representatives of the WEP Women’s Sex-Based Rights Caucus to express our concerns, as active party members, around the proposed consultation outlined in your email to members on 6/7/2020.
WEP Women’s Sex-Based Rights Caucus came together in 2018 and has grown in numbers ever since. In November 2019, we published the WEP Women’s Declaration of Sex-Based Rights which has garnered over 850 signatures to date. These signatories all share a specific concern that our party is failing to engage in this issue, and in doing so is failing the women and girls that WEP was established to advocate for.
Furthermore, it is our position that WEP has failed in its duty as a feminist party to facilitate respectful dialogue on the issue of sex self-ID and sex-based rights. Its silence has contributed to the toxicity of this debate and lent validation to the idea that feminism is counter to trans rights, and the false notion that those seeking to advocate for women’s sex-based rights are informed by fear or transphobia. This is simply not the case.
WEP’s silence has allowed half-facts and misinformation to flourish. It has failed to empower women by disseminating clear information from which they can build their own position. WE request that WEP Women’s Sex-Based Rights Caucus is given a formal role and platform in the planned consultation, following the motion put forward at Conference in 2018 that WEP should adopt a position that the Gender Recognition Act should be changed to allow 'self-identification'.
Furthermore, we request that you provide further clarity on the process you introduced in your email of 6 July 2020. Our intention in writing this letter is to help the WEP leadership team ensure that the consultation is carried out fairly and properly and that all members are enabled to take part and have their views registered and reflected, without fear or victimisation.
As the consultation is imminent, we would request that these queries - detailed below - be responded to within seven days: [Please note that when we refer in this letter to 'the WEP leadership team', we mean collectively WEP's leader and new deputy leaders, the Steering Group and all the committee members, and staff.]
1) Please expand on and clarify your email regarding the scope of the consultation, including: What exactly will members be consulted on? What questions will you put to members? What output will the consultation deliver?
2) Please provide details regarding the "independent experts" who have advised you so far, according to your email of 6 July 2020.
i Please list all the experts whom you have consulted so far and explain why you chose each of them.
ii What matters have you consulted the experts about? Eg, process or specifics about the issue/s?
iii Your email refers to a report produced from Stage 1 - Scoping Exercise. We request a copy of this, also within 7 days, please.
3) Please specify how you propose to provide a formal role and platform within the consultation process for the WEP Women’s Sex-Based Rights Caucus. (As part of our role, we request that WEP leadership emails all WEP members to make them aware of our caucus so that they may choose to join us. We are also willing to advocate for and represent those members who are too fearful to make their own representations on this matter. (Please liaise with us direct to agree the wording you will use to email all WEP members to inform them about our caucus.))
4) WEP appears to have determined that the consultation should be carried out by way of a members' assembly.
i Please can you explain your reasoning for this?
ii Please provide the minutes from the past two years’ Policy & Steering Committees’ meetings. Please also explain why these minutes have not been published to all members.
iii Please explain on what basis/criteria you propose to select members to participate in the 'members' assembly’.
5) Please detail how the whole WEP leadership team will from now on actively ensure that WEP members no longer have to fear censure, censorship, silencing and victimisation if they wish to speak or write about about their concerns over threats to sex-based rights.
6) We ask that that you publish a statement on the WEP website guaranteeing your commitment to protecting all members' rights to full freedom of expression and freedom of association within the law, including specifying that members are allowed to express their concerns over threats to sex-based rights from 'gender' ideology and 'self-identification' of 'gender' without being censured, censored, silenced or victimised. Further, we request that your statement will include specifying how you will actively ensure that WEP members who are lesbian and/or BAME and/or have disabilities or health conditions are facilitated to speak out about sex-based rights, as our experience is that women who are lesbian and/or BAME and/or have disabilities or health conditions are both more likely to suffer under erosion of sex-based rights and more likely to be punished for expressing their concerns.
7) We respect Pamela Ritchie as a fellow WEP member and do not doubt her good faith However, we consider that Pamela's role in proposing the 2018 motion on self-identification may cause members to lack confidence in her capacity for impartiality in regard to the consultation. Please detail what part Pamela has played so far in the consultation planning and what role you propose she take from now on.
In solidarity sisterhood and good faith,
WEP Woman’s Sex-Based Rights Caucus
Founded in 2018, WEP Women’s Sex-Based Rights Caucus comprises committed WEP members, including branch officers and founding members. We share a specific concern that the WEP leadership team has, for the past three years, consistently failed to engage effectively with the present threats to women's and girls' sex-based rights in the UK. This failure has meant that WEP has not made our collective WEP voices heard in the UK public arena, and so has badly let down the women and girls that WEP was established to advocate for.
WE as feminists, and our sisters and mothers and grandmothers before us, have fought hard for generations to win sex-based rights for women and girls. Furthermore, it is our position that the WEP leadership team has failed in its duty to facilitate respectful dialogue on the interaction between our sex-based rights and certain proposals made for additional rights for transgender people.
WEP, as the only party specifically established to advance females, should have been a key player in leading and mediating a national conversation. Instead, we consider that WEP's very silence has contributed to the toxicity of this debate and lent validation to the false notion that those seeking to protect women’s sex-based rights are informed by ignorance, fear or transphobia. Worse, WEP leadership team's lack of support for members' freedom of expression and freedom of association has meant that many of our own members feel too afraid to speak out on this subject, for fear of censure and victimisation. Many members have quit the party because of this. This is a great indictment of WEP leadership.
Our caucus represents many of those WEP members who have been silenced, censored or victimised. Some key instances of this attack on members' freedom of expression and freedom of association on WEP's public stage are: - in 2017-2018, the victimising and sacking from a WEP spokeswoman role of the respected academic Dr Heather Brunskell-Evans, for broadcasting her research into the effect of 'gender' ideology on children; - a refusal to allow members to question committee candidates during the 2018 conference hustings on their views on the interaction between sex-based rights and self-identification; and - WEP leadership team taking a unilateral decision to remove 'Fair Play for Women' leaflets about the interaction between sex-based rights and self-identification, after the leaflets had been distributed by some members at the 2018 conference. Our members know of many, less public, incidences of silencing and victimisation over the past three years within WEP branches of members who have raised concerns about the erosion of our sex-based rights. During the same period, those members who express support for 'gender' ideology and self-identification have been allowed freely to express and associate themselves without censure or censorship.
WEP Women’s Declaration Our declaration currently has in excess of 850 signatures. See here. It is signed by party members, ex-members who have recently resigned over this issue, and active feminists from women’s services. WE urge you to take some time to read the comments. This petition is a rich document of testimonies. It makes for compelling reading and goes some way in articulating the concerns that many members wish to see addressed. WEP Women’s Declaration When the Women’s Equality Party was formed in 2015, the Party was questioned on its choice of name and came under pressure to defend it. The Party rightly expressed that the issues that it holds at its core are issues that affect women and only by naming that can we address them. As members and supporters of the Party, we recognise that discrimination takes many forms and that there are other intersections such as race, sexual orientation and class that have to be acknowledged and addressed in order for all women and girls to be able to achieve their potential. WEP recognises that there are important discussions to be had around the impact of harmful sexist stereotypes on men, especially around parenting, and how we can achieve equality that will benefit all. We also acknowledge that structural sexism places men in a position of relative advantage and power, and women in a position of subjugation. Women have long fought for equality for all – for the rights of gay and lesbian people to be upheld in law, for an end to racial and religious discrimination, for rights for people with disabilities, for all people to be able to live their lives free from discrimination and abuse. We continue that fight and stand alongside these communities in upholding these values. Whilst we fully recognise that transgender people often face a harsh reality in these intolerant times, we support the right of women to raise and address their concerns about how the erosion of sex-based rights could potentially impact their lives.
We stand shoulder to shoulder with the women from the SNP, Labour, Conservative, Liberal Democrat and Green Parties who have made similar petitions.
We, as members and supporters of the Party in our personal capacities, ask the Women’s Equality Party to acknowledge and support the following assertions:
● Women and girls throughout the world are discriminated against on the basis of their sex
● It is important to recognise that sex and gender are separate in meaning and law and when discussing potential changes to legislation
● There are times when a distinction has to be made between women and transwomen, between transgender people who have fully transitioned and transgender people who have not had any surgical or other medical intervention, and that making these distinctions does not constitute transphobia
● Women have the right to maintain their sex-based protections, as set out in the Equality Act 2010. These include female-only spaces such as changing rooms, hospital wards, sleeping accommodation, refuges, hostels and prisons
● Without the continued existence of sex as a category, enacting Equal Pay legislation and Gender Pay Gap measures becomes impossible. Changes to facilitate self-ID of sex would have this effect
● Women have the right to fair, single sex competition in sport. Trans athletes who were born male benefit from the natural effects of testosterone on superior musculoskeletal development through puberty as well as increased lung and heart capacity
● Women have the right to assemble and to discuss the potential impact of any proposed changes to law, policy or interpretation of either. In particular, the proposals to introduce a system of self-identification of gender or sex, and changes to the Gender Recognition Act 2004 and the Equality Act 2010
● Nobody should be subjected to abuse and harassment for exercising that right