Women’s rights must be respected

It is currently impossible for a woman to have a discussion about her rights just now without being accused of attempting to ‘roll back trans rights’. Women generally had a good grasp of what we were legally entitled to in respect of single sex provisions, yet this reality has become very muddied in recent times.

The policies and practices of public authorities have been changing over recent years, with no public scrutiny and apparently, no proper understanding nor consideration of how these changes would impact women. The large percentage of us remained completely unaware these changes were happening, but then the Gender Recognition Act consultation began and the floodgate opened. Talk of single sex spaces being accessed on the basis of Self ID shocked many of us, especially those with any knowledge or experience with sexual offenders, the safeguarding risks were obvious, right?

We raised our concerns only for them to be dismissed by advocates of the reform, proudly announcing that most services already operated on the basis of Self ID; with Elected members, Charities, Local Authorities and other public bodies all confirming that they have indeed been changing their policies to permit this. Do they not realise that they are publicly promoting the fact they have been changing these policies, in the dark, and in the process have utterly failed to meet the needs of women? Our equality law recognises that it is entirely appropriate for women and girls to need single sex spaces when privacy, decency or intimacy are factors, and can lawfully exclude members of the opposite sex.

We now find ourselves in a country where schools turn a blind eye to the rise of sexual assaults on schoolgirls by installing mixed sex toilets and Council’s sporting venues with staff policies reminding them that people can freely choose their changing room “no matter if they look as if they are of the opposite sex”.

If this blatant discrimination and inequality wasn’t bad enough, representatives of our public bodies then condemn us with accusations of anti-trans bigotry and ‘rolling back the rights of others’; spoken with a staggering lack of awareness on the part they have played in the obliteration of ‘Women only’ spaces and services in Scotland.

This is not progress.

This opinion piece was first published in The Herald on 22/4/19

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