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by Gemma Fraser
12 November 2019
Labour Party activists launch new women’s rights petition in light of GRA reforms


Labour Party activists launch new women’s rights petition in light of GRA reforms

Three hundred Labour Party activists and supporters have launched a declaration on women’s sex-based rights over fears these rights are being threatened by proposed reforms of the Gender Recognition Act (GRA).

The signatories of the petition – including former Scottish Labour leader Johann Lamont – want to “support women’s sex-based rights and protections” after Labour made commitments in its 2017 general election manifesto to reform the GRA.

Proposed reforms of the GRA, which are supported by Rape Crisis Scotland, Scottish Women’s Aid, Engender and Zero Tolerance, aim to simplify the process for trans people obtaining a Gender Recognition Certificate.

But the Labour Women’s Declaration Working Group are concerned the proposals would have a detrimental impact on hard-fought women’s rights, including an entitlement to female-only spaces such as changing rooms, hospital wards, sanitary and sleeping accommodation, refuges, hostels and prisons.

The declaration also recognises that women and girls are “subject to discrimination and oppression” on the basis of their sex and that they have a right to discuss policies which affect them “without being abused, harassed or intimidated”.

The issue around GRA reforms has become particularly controversial in Scotland, with SNP MSPs publicly divided on the proposals.

Earlier this year, 15 leading SNP politicians signed an open letter on the issue of women’s and trans people’s rights which stated that “conflating sex with gender identification affects a wide range of policy and service delivery including data collection, education, health and social care, justice and sport” and that the subject deserved to be “properly scrutinised”.

The new women’s sex-based rights declaration highlights similar divisions within the Labour Party.

Lamont, the Labour MSP for Glasgow, said: “I have fought all my life along with my sisters in the Labour and trade union movement to ensure that women’s voices are heard, that our needs and rights are addressed, to end the inequality women face and to change women’s lives.

“The progress made by women has come from women organising together and refusing to be silenced. That is as necessary now as it ever was.”

Elaine Smith – one of three MSPs to sign the declaration – added: “It is important to ensure that debate and different views are not silenced in the Labour Party and the wider labour movement.

“Women and girls deserve the best we can do, investing in services, tackling violence against women and girls, challenging harassment and discrimination on the grounds of sex.

“Good laws require thorough scrutiny, and as a Member of the Scottish Parliament I will continue to ask questions and listen to women’s concerns.”

Paula Boulton, a spokeswoman for the group behind the declaration, said the proposed reform of the GRA has not been audited for its effect on women and girls.

She said: “In fact, there has been very little open discussion in any of the political parties or trade unions. Few conversations have been held at branch and constituency level. Where they have, such as in Tottenham and Totnes CLPs, members have voted to support women’s sex based rights.

“We are passionate Labour supporters, including MSPs, councillors, constituency and branch chairs, women’s officers and secretaries and many of us are activists working flat out for a Labour victory in the December general election to end the cruel policies of this Tory government which are causing so much pain and hardship.

“However — this issue requires an evidence-based approach and wide discussion before any specific proposals for GRA reform are made.”

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