A Welsh feminist group has urged the devolved government to drop “unlawful” transgender staff policies that could see women fired for refusing to share toilets and changing rooms with men.
Merched Cymru (Welsh Women) wrote to First Minister Mark Drakeford’s Cardiff-based administration asking it to stop paying “unelected, unaccountable political lobbying group” Stonewall £6,000 per year to be part of its Diversity Champions scheme and its Workplace Equality Index.
Merched Cymru argued that by following Stonewall’s advice that transsexuals should be allowed into single-sex spaces such as toilets on the basis of self-identification only — without a legal Gender Recognition Certificate (GRC) — the Welsh government was in fact breaking equalities law.
While the group said it regretted turning against the well-established LGBT rights NGO, such organisations had “a responsibility to act with integrity” while the government “has a duty to exercise due diligence.”
"For a self-described 'Feminist Government' to impose employment policies that erase the language associated with women – our reality, our bodies, our life experiences – with so little concern for the impact on its female staff is unconscionable,” a spokeswoman said.
“It will have an inevitable chilling effect on staff's ability to raise concerns about the infringement of their rights in the workplace,” she warned.
Merched Cymru pointed out that the Cardiff administration’s submission for the Workplace Equality Index said its transgender policy had been changed to “make explicit that employees are trusted to know which toilet and changing facilities to use”.
"It is not the law that a person who wishes to transition has an automatic right of access to facilities designated for the opposite sex,” the spokeswoman stressed.
Under the UK’s 2004 Gender Recognition Act, a person wishing to be recognised as transgender must have a medical diagnosis of gender dysphoria and must also live as a member of the opposite sex for at least two years before they can obtain a GRC — although they do not have to undergo sex-change surgery. But Stonewall and other LGBT and trans rights groups claim the requirements are still too onerous, and that individuals should be able to self-identify as a member of either sex or as “non-binary”.
“Many, possibly most, women will be concerned that their privacy, dignity and safety will be compromised if they are obliged to share facilities with fully intact male-bodied people, whether due to their religion, culture, personal experience of assault or abuse, or simply a wish for single-sex facilities,” she added.
"Yet Welsh Government policies suggest that these women will be dealt with as if it was a disciplinary matter,” the group’s spokeswoman added. “This is inhumane and horrifying."
In response to the Merched Cymru’s letter, the Welsh government told Sputnik on Friday it was “proud to be an LGBTQ+ inclusive employer,” and that it did not accept the feminists’ argument that its Stonewall-led policy conflicted with the legally-protected rights of women and religious groups.
“We use gender-neutral language wherever possible in our policies to avoid gender bias which may inadvertently disadvantage women, men and non-binary people,” a spokesperson said. “We do not feel that this is to the detriment of any other protected group.”
The letter coincided with a high profile Employment Tribunal victory for Maya Forstater, whose employer the Centre for Global Development sacked her in March 2019 for alleged transphobia for tweeting her dissent from the view that a man literally becomes a woman by identifying as one.
Merched Cymru was also scathing in its criticism of Stonewall, whose CEO Nancy Kelley recently said ‘gender-critical’ opinions like Forstater’s were equivalent to anti-Semitism . Several major public bodies who were Stonewall’s Diversity scheme clients, including the Ministry of Justice, the Equality and Human Rights Commission and workplace conciliation service ACAS, have withdrawn recently over the controversies surrounding it.
On Thursday the Trades Union Congress (TUC) tweeted that Forstater’s win against her employer did not lessen the need for vigilance against “transphobia” — and implied that she was guilty of transphobic “discrimination and harassment” against her colleagues.
— Trades Union Congress (@The_TUC) June 10, 2021
Comments under the tweet were almost exclusively critical of the labour federation’s stance.
But Forstater tweeted that she was celebrating victory on Friday after receiving gifts of flowers and champagne from well-wishers.
— Maya Forstater (@MForstater) June 11, 2021
Scotland’s devolved government has also backed self-identification for transsexuals — and has launched efforts to legislate for it after British Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s Conservative government dropped plans by his predecessor Theresa May to amend the law to allow it.
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