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The Bruges Group spearheaded the intellectual battle to win a vote to leave the European Union and, above all, against the emergence of a centralised EU state.
The Bruges Group spearheaded the intellectual battle to win a vote to leave the European Union and, above all, against the emergence of a centralised EU state.

Bruges Group Blog

Spearheading the intellectual battle against the EU. And for new thinking in international affairs.

Defending women’s spaces

Defending-womens-spaces Defending Women’s Spaces

Karen Ingala Smith, Polity, 2022 

This is a brave and eloquent statement of the case for women's rights, especially the right to have women-only spaces. As Smith remarks, "When I talk about women-only spaces, I mean single-sex spaces. From my perspective, a space which includes biological males who identify as women should be recognised as a mixed-sex space."

But too many organisations do not defend women's right to women-only spaces. For example, Edinburgh Rape Crisis will not allow women who are sexual violence survivors to receive support in a woman-only environment. As Smith points out, women are at far greater risk of violence than transgender people: the last known murder of a transgender person in the UK was in January 2019. Since then, males have killed at least 430 women.

She explains why women-only spaces are needed: "Women experiencing trauma after violence and abuse will, like most of us, almost always instantly read someone - who might be the most kind and gentle trans-identifying male in the world - as male and they may experience a debilitating trauma response as a result. It's not their fault, it's not a choice and it's not something they can be 'educated out of'. It's not hate. It's not bigotry. It's not transphobia. It is an impact of abuse by men. In order to recover and heal, women need space, support and sometimes therapy - not increased confrontation with a trauma-inducing trigger; and not a mixed-sex space."

Further, "to dismiss the perspective of female victim-survivors as underpinned by 'misandry' or irrational fear is to deny their clarity of vision which has come from hard-won insight, while to class the legitimate protections they ask for as transphobic oppression misrepresents reality."

As Smith points out, "women did not want males with transgender identities excluded from women-only spaces because they were transgender, but because they were male." It is a fact that 90-95 per cent of males with transgender identities still have a penis.

So, it is no surprise that violent offending in males self-identifying as women followed the male pattern. In prisons, "Transgender inmates were five times more likely to carry out sexual attacks compared with other prisoners with a documented history of assault. … women in prison are at much greater risk from male transgender prisoners than they are from other women."

Smith sums up: "males, including those who identify as a woman, transgender or non-binary do not have a fundamental right to enter sports for females. Males, including those who identify as a woman or transgender do not have the fundamental right to compel others to act as if we share their beliefs. Males, including those who identify as a woman or transgender, do not have a fundamental right to enter women's refuges." "Transgender people should be accepted as they are, but not as the sex that they are not."

Attempts to dismiss and 'cancel' the reality of biological sex are attacks on the hard-won rights and spaces of women and girls. Stonewall, for one, tries to abolish legal provisions for single-sex spaces. In its submission to the Women and Equalities Select Committee Inquiry on Transgender Equality, of 27 August 2015, it said it wanted 'to remove exemptions, such as access to single-sex spaces'. Yet Benjamin Cohen, CEO of Pink News, claimed that Stonewall "aren't campaigning for that, that's just misinformation being spread by a homophobic and transphobic media, I'm afraid."

In 2020 Fair Play for Women won a legal challenge to the Office for National Statistics, so people are now required to record their legal sex, not their gender identity, in the census. Subsequently, the Home Office asked police forces in England and Wales to identify transgender victims and perpetrators of crime by their birth sex to bring police data in line with census data. As Fair Play commented, "This is a direct result of our win in the High Court last year … male rapists will no longer be recorded as female in police crime stats."

A point lost on politicians like Keir Starmer, Sadiq Khan, Nicola Sturgeon and Humza Yousaf, who cannot bring themselves to say that a rapist is a male and not a female. 

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