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How self ID is incompatible with EVAWG

VAWG Violence Against Women & Girls: Image

The Law, Single-sex spaces


A win for women, read here

Women and girls have the legal right to single sex spaces as defined under the Equality Act 2010.

Schedule 3 Sections 26, 27 and 28 clearly states that women can exclude males, including those with a GRC where doing so is a "proportionate means of reaching a legitimate aim".

Although the law is clear, what is unclear is how women manage a single-sex space when a male-bodied person has changed the sex marker on their birth certificate and personal ID.

Currently only around 5000 GRCs have been issued (Government Equalities Office), so this does not pose a frequent problem. The GRC also provides a some degree of gate-keeping against opportunism, in that the applicant must have a diagnosis of gender-dysphoria and has 'lived as their acquired gender for a minimum of two years'. However, contrary to public belief there is no requirement for the man to 'physically transition'.

Self ID, means that the number of those changing the sex marker on their birth certificates and other IDs would balloon. Stonewall estimates that 600,000 people (1% of the UK population) is trans. All of whom would be entitled to change their birth certificate and ID's. 

This means simply means that a person has to be treated as the sex they say they are. 

This is clearly unworkable for those women who wish to exercise their legal right to single-sex spaces. This is also clearly unworkable for anyone wishing to run a single sex service eg rape crisis or DV service.

"A straightforward interpretation of the single-sex exemptions in the Equality Act is that males are excluded from women’s services on the basis that they do not share the protected characteristic of being female (and vice versa).... People who have legally changed sex can also be excluded, since it is not someone’s legal sex, but their actual physical sex which has the potential to make others uncomfortable." -M Forstater 

But when we say single-sex exemptions, what do we mean, and where can they be used?

There are eight specific provisions allowing single sex facilities in the Equality Act

  1. Separate and single sex services (Schedule 3 Sections 26, 27 and 28): Organisations can provide single sex services where they have a good reason, such as where only one sex needs the service (e.g. cervical smear tests); it is a more effective way of providing the service (e.g. enabling women with particular religions to access the swimming pool by providing women-only swimming sessions); where the service is at a hospital or other care setting; where a person of one sex might reasonably object to the presence of a person of the opposite sex (e.g. changing rooms, any service involving intimate personal health or hygiene, or a women’s refuge); or where there is a high degree of physical contact involved (e.g. a self-defence class, massage service).

  2. Sport: (Section 195): separate sporting competitions can be organised for men and women where physical strength, stamina or physique are major factors in determining success or failure, and in which one sex is generally at a disadvantage in comparison with the other. 

  3. Occupational requirement (Schedule 9): Employers can restrict particular jobs if they can show it is necessary for someone to have a protected characteristic. This can include someone working in a single sex service such as a  refuge or involved in bodily contact with clients; a bra fitter could be a job only for open to female applicants for reasons of privacy and decency. 

  4. Communal accommodation (Schedule 23): Dormitories, halls of residence and other shared accommodation can be provided for each sex separately for reasons of privacy.

  5. Charities (Section 193): Charities must act in pursuit of their objects (as set out in their governance document) which may be restricted to providing benefits to people with a  particular protected characteristic (such as sex, religion, disability, sexual orientation etc…). 

  6. Associations (Schedule 16): Associations and clubs are allowed to have membership which involves a selection process based on personal criteria, for example a women writers’ group or a group for transgender people. 

  7. Schools (Schedule 11): Schools are allowed to admit pupils of only one sex. Single sex schools can admit a few children of the opposite sex under exceptional circumstances, or to undertake a limited range of courses. 

  8. Political parties (Part 7): Political parties may make arrangements to address the under-representation of people with particular protected characteristics – this can include single-sex shortlists for election candidates.

Misinterpretations of the law and what this means for women.

There has been confusion around the law, in that some service providers interpret single-sex to mean single-gender. 

This Stonewall report details the domestic and sexual violence support services who are allowing males who self identify as women to access women-only communal services. Scottish Women’s Aid and Rape Crisis Scotland both adopted policy that access to their “women only” services should not be limited those who are female. It is not not uncommon that cities such as Brighton, now have no female only rape crisis services. In fact many services state that they are 'women only', where in fact, a dig into their policy documents shows that they take the word 'woman' to mean anyone who identifies as such. This raises issues of consent. Service users are entering into a mixed-sex space that they assume is single-sex. WE believe that spaces we assume are single-sex must make steps to explicitly state they are not, in order for a woman to meaningfully consent to the terms of the service.

For some women a mixed-sex space may not pose a problem. However for many women it does.

Women, for many reasons including faith, culture and trauma prefer to have single sex-space. When single-sex spaces are unavailable women often self-exclude. When we self-exclude, we lose out.

This impact of self-excluding can be profound when if affects access to health care or trauma services. If the space is not single-sex women self-exclude, meaning they do not have access to basic facilities. 

This impacts on victim-survivors in several ways:

1) They no longer have single-sex therapeutic rape crisis/ DV services.

2) As single-sex spaces (toilets, changing, hostel accomodation, hospital wards, swimming sessions etc) disappear from our social landscape they find themselves broadly more excluded from public life.

Victim-survivors make up a depressingly large proportion of our population- around one in four women have experienced sexual assault. WE are worth consideration.

Victim-Survivor Testimonies- Why we need single sex-spaces

WE include here an open letter written by FOVAS (Female Only Violence & Abuse Survivors). It comes with a content warning. 

Open letter to UK Women’s Organisations from female survivors of male violence.

Dear Women’s Organisations,

We are women survivors of systemic male violence in all its forms. As you probably know, 98% of sexual offences and 80% of violent crimes are committed by males against females and not the reverse. We have suffered every kind of horror inflicted on our bodies and minds. For many of us, we are battling every day with trauma symptoms. Speaking out is not easy for us and we respectfully ask that you listen..... click here to read more.

This is a testimony the Caucus received. A brave and astonishing account. The writer asked us to share it with you so you may learn something from her life. WE sent this in a letter to Mandu & central office, and you can read it here.

We would also recommend reading this report: Supporting Women in Domestic & Sexual Violence Services

An in depth report to the necessity for single-sex trauma services from a service provider perspective.

WE would like to finish on a final note. WE are deeply unhappy that WEP have asked women to 'make the case' for single sex spaces. The law is clear- they are lawful and can not be facilitated under self-ID.

WE thank the women who have testified as part of this consultation. They do so at remarkable cost to themselves. 

WE also want to acknowledge the one in four women reading this who are experiencing a secondary trauma from having these discussions. WE stand in solidarity with you.

Women's rights are not a debate

Freephone 24-Hour National Domestic Abuse Helpline: 0808 2000 247

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