Updated: Oct 23, 2020
WE are pleased to bring you the first in a series of Caucus blogs from #WEPconf2020
So what was our motion? Why was it silenced? And what does this mean for women and girls?
To read the full motion and read our motion speeches please follow this link.
WE are the WEP sex-based rights caucus and WE are proud and passionate members of WEP - the only party that sets women and girls at the beginning, middle and end of each and every policy, at each and every campaign.
A party that, historically, makes the tough policy decisions because WE know they are the right policies to improve women’s lives.
WE are proud to be in a party that upholds the Nordic Model, that has a leader who has pushed for affirmative consent laws, and has taken direct action to tackle the under representation of BAME and other marginalised women in our fold.
WEP is a political party formed in response to achingly slow progress in achieving women's equality. WE make relevant, effective policy that aims to close the lag between legislation and real world equality.
Equal pay laws, domestic abuse laws, anti maternity-discrimination laws (to name just a few) have failed to materialise substantive change in women’s lives.
WE are fed up with slow progress whilst women pay the price.
WE are fed up with the pay gap.
WE are fed up with the burden of low paid and unpaid work being placed on women’s shoulders.
WE are fed up that women are the shock absorbers for austerity and Covid-19
WE are fed up that women are still being raped, beaten and exploited and, all too often, still are not protected, often have nowhere to go for safe harbour.
WE will not debate the existence of women’s rights when this work has already be done by the women’s liberation movement before us.
And it is in this common cause that we brought an urgent motion to conference- ‘Upholding the Equality Act 2010’.
Why did we bring this motion and why is it urgent?
WE brought this urgently because, just like the legislation listed above, the Equality Act is not working for women and children. The legislation has not translated into facilities and support. It has not delivered what it was intended to do because it is not being implemented as it should be, because the EA2010 constantly misrepresented and misused.
Women across the UK, (as detailed in the House of Commons’ Women and Equalities Committee 2019 report), have complained that lawful single-sex exemptions are not being widely enforced, resulting in a wholesale roll back of women's rights and protections.
Our motion asked WEP members to urgently stand up for women and children by pressing the Government, public authorities and private organisations to apply the Equality Act as it was intended.
Women and children are in danger right now. A surge in abuse rates during lockdown, coupled with an economic vulnerability which is both structural and exasperated in times of crisis means WE must act now. Women can not wait.
Women in this country and in our party want and need safe single-sex spaces.
This need for single-sex spaces does not just include refuges and specialist women’s services, but access to single-sex spaces throughout wider society including changing rooms in schools and across public life, hospital wards, women’s health clinics, prisons, sporting competitions, all-women shortlists. The list is long.
Women, not just in the UK but our sisters across the globe, look to this country to lead the way in safeguarding women’s rights and protections. WE cannot continue to flounder on this issue. We are letting women down in their hour of need- a surge of violence and abuse against a back-drop of a decade of austerity and a global pandemic.
What happened at #WEPconf2020 and how did we get here?
Disappointingly, our party leadership denied to table our motion ‘Upholding the Equality Act 2010’ for debate.
WEP Steering Committee claims that our motion would undermine a proposed internal consultation on whether WEP should adopt policy to reform the GRA 2004, essentially allowing self-ID of sex. We reject this assertion:
Our motion does not address the GRA 2004. It addresses a separate area of law and women in this country and beyond, need our party to talk about our laws as they are today, not just how they might be in the future.
We challenged the steering committee's rejection of our motion at conference during Party Business. We had 5 minutes to speak on why our motion was important, and why members needed to hear and debate it.
The Steering Committee used their internally influential platform to speak against us, urging conference to vote down the reading of our motion, again citing the consultation.
Simultaneously, and disappointingly, a senior member of the party used the conference message boards to suggest our motion was a ‘smokescreen’ to derail the consultation.
WE are disappointed that anyone in the Party would suggest that asking for the Women’s Equality Party to take action on an urgent issue affecting women right now is a smokescreen for anything. This bullying, smearing and bad-faith argument is not doing 'politics differently'.
WE have stated, and continue to state unequivocally that we welcome and support the members’ consultation of self ID. We have offered our support and practical help to central office to help facilitate and guide the process. We will always take any opportunity available to us to promote the improvement of the lives of all groups, and to ensure that no group loses out in the advancement of another.
Whilst we agree that there may be crossover between these discussions, the Equality Act underpins all of our rights as women in law. It is simply unacceptable that all discussion concerning these rights must be frozen whilst this consultation runs its course. Two years has already passed since the 2018 self ID motion was referred back. According to the party's own timetable it could run for another two years. Yet so far only a group of 60 members have been consulted in all of that time. But women and girls cannot - should not - wait for a feminist party to act for them. They need our support now.
An internal consultation of self-ID was never intended, by the membership to freeze policy development, discussion or to quash responsiveness to the needs of women as they arise.
After a nationwide feminist campaigns the Government has now ruled out changes to the GRA2004. Meaning WEP's proposed internal consultation, already over two years in the making, has missed its window. But failures to apply the Equality Act matter to women and children across the UK right now.
Right now, every single day, women and children are losing their rights and protections because our law is not being applied as intended. Male violence continues, unabated, whilst women’s options shrink.
WE are incredibly disappointed that WEP took the line that this matter should not be discussed and explored by membership. Moreover, that those that wish to discuss this would be silenced and misrepresented by the party.
WE will continue to support the consultation, in recognition that it is a brave attempt to tackle an issue that no other political party has made inroads into. But we maintain that WEP leaders and our fellow members should be putting all our strength into where it matters right now - upholding our rights to single-sex space and services. That's why we are still seeking to work with WEP leaders to ensure that members can openly discuss our sex-based rights, and come together as a party to uphold the Equality Act.
It is time that The Women's Equality Party acknowledges that it is our sex that is the root cause of our united struggle. Until then women and girls are not being served.
If WEP cannot define us, WEP can not protect us.
We urge you to join with us in asking WEP leaders to stand up for women and children right now. Sign up to our newsletter via our website, follow our blog, see our recommendations for the steering committee candidates and #UpholdtheEA
@WEP_UK @ManduReid @Legaleagle24 @HannahPopsy @TabithaMortonWE