We are delighted at today's announcement by Women's Aid Federation that, following their organisation-wide consultation, they unequivocally support single-sex spaces and services. Read the full statement here.
This statement has been welcomed across the board, but it is not huge surprise. Women's Aid have been experts in their field for over half a century. Their expertise gleaned from working extensively with women has seen Women's Aid continually break new ground in both theory and practice. Single-sex domestic abuse services are recognised by both service users and providers as essential in providing trauma-informed spaces where women can recover.
Their statement has three main pillars:
1. The provision of single-sex domestic abuse services is a founding principle of Women’s Aid, and we will defend it
2. We recognise that members have different approaches and offer a variety of services within their organisations. We support this diversity in our federation.
3. We are committed to increasing the provision of services for all survivors of domestic violence and abuse, including trans people.
This statement is a reiteration of the Women's Aid evidence submitted to The Women and Equality Select Committee around GRA reform. It is published today as a direct response to the worrying trend of commissioners preferring to fund 'gender-neutral services' over specialist women-centred organisations.
CEO Farah Nazeer in her #IWD2022 blog:
"I was shocked in my first week at Women’s Aid to hear that one of our member organisations, RISE in Sussex, had lost local authority funding for providing services for survivors of domestic abuse. The local authority had taken a ‘gender-neutral’ approach to commissioning its domestic abuse services, which led to RISE – a women-centred service which has been providing domestic abuse services for over 25 years – losing the contract. And this is by no means the first time this has happened. This is part of a worrying move by some local authorities to disregard the gendered nature of domestic abuse and to ask domestic abuse services to provide a full range of services on an ever-shrinking budget".
Women's Aid CEO Farah Nazeer
Although many WEP members (and members of this caucus) were actively involved in raising awareness of both the broader commissioning issue and involved in the RISE UP! campaign to recommission RISE, they received no platform or amplification from The Women's Equality Party.
Although we have continually and directly approached our VAWG spokesperson for comment, she has yet to open any dialogue with us. We will approach her for a statement on today's news, but - in the likely absence of her engagement - we will instead offer nia's exceptional statement. It can be read in full here:
"Too few charities stay political about the causes they were set up to address. It seems that many organisations addressing men’s violence against women and girls have traded their political edge for a placatory or ‘safe’ relationship with the government, statutory organisations, funders and even the media or general public. nia chose not to take this ‘playing-safe approach’ and was – as far as we are aware – the first UK specialist provider of services for women victim-survivors of men’s violence to openly and proudly defend the need for single sex services".
nia's response to the WA statement
"WRC does not consider the right for women’s organisations to choose who they consider women in the context of their service provision capabilities to be transphobic. Rather, it is a decision based on what women deem necessary in light of their experiences, often of male violence, oppression and trauma".
The WRC outlines a series of requests. We hope that WEP's leadership can work with the Women's Resource Centre to promote their campaign asks. We thank Mandu Reid for supporting the WA statement in her tweet today. We hope this is the beginning of a substantive action and serious dialogue with our caucus.
The WRC asks:
1. We want to see clarification of the single sex exceptions under the Equality Act 2010 and the removal of the burden of implementing them from women’s organisations.
2. We want to see consistent and clear evidence-based definitions ‘sex ’(male/female and a protected characteristic) and ‘gender ’(constructs of masculinity and femininity), in all communications and policy.
3. Funding and capacity for the women’s sector to provide single-sex services has been the single biggest issue we have had to contend with. Specialist services for lesbian women, black and minoritised women, and trans people are losing out to larger, generic organisations. We call on all feminists and allies to support us in demanding sufficient funding for specialist, ‘led by and for ’organisations, so that all of our needs can be met.
So, thank you Farah Nazeer! Thank you Women's Aid! Thank you Women's Resource Centre! Thank you nia! Thank you Karen Ingala-Smith! Thank you RISEUP! Thank you Aurora New Dawn! Thank you Dr Shonagh Dillon! And thank you to all the wonderful women's organisations like Woman's Place UK who have held space for this conversation and endured open hostility in the name of women's refuge.
Join the twitter conversation here.
For more information on single-sex services and the law, we recommend the Sex Matters Guidance. For information on providing single-sex spaces in schools, we recommend 'Boys and Girls and the Equality Act' written in conjunction with Sex Matters and Transgender Trend.