Self-declaration creates an environment that is hostile to specialist single-sex services and one in which women cannot set our own boundaries
This is what I’d planned to say in opposition to a motion at the Women’s Equality Party 2018 in favour of simplifying the ‘gender recognition certificate’ process. I’d slightly edited it to get it under the expected required 3 minutes (so it was already over-simplified and by no means everything I want to say) but in the event on the day, I had to further cut it down because there were so many who wanted to speak (both for and against) the motion, Whilst that was frustrating, it’s fine, it’s part of a democratic process. The outcome is that the WEP will be further consulting its members on this issue. I applaud WEP for daring to tackle these issues and for consulting members.
My name is Karen Ingala Smith. I have worked in services for women who have been subjected to men’s violence for 29 years. I run the project Counting Dead Women commemorating women killed by men in the UK and I am co-founder of the Femicide Census in partnership with Women’s Aid.
We’ve heard from women who have told us they have spoken to specialist women’s organisations. I haven’t just spoken to such an organisation – I run one.
I oppose this motion.
Self –declaration would mean that any man who says he is a woman would be able to access specialist services for women subjected to men’s violence.
Self-declaration creates an environment that is hostile to specialist single-sex services and one in which women cannot set our own boundaries.
Some say we can use risk assessments to assess whether a male who says he is trans poses a risk to women.
When a risk assessment is completed with a woman looking to move in to a refuge, time is critical, you need to get her to a place of safety and quickly. You’re assessing the risk she is facing from her partner, whether the location of the refuge offers safety and whether she herself would pose a risk to others living in the refuge. Not whether or not she is actually a violent male.
Another way we mitigate against risk is by providing a woman-only space.
At least 80% of males who identify as trans retain a penis. Do adult penises belong on women’s refuges and Rape Crisis centres? Many of the women and children we work with are terrified of males. They need and deserve a break.
There is a no credible evidence suggesting that males who identify as trans commit violence against women at lower rates than those who do not. Gender Recognition Certificates do not reduce men’s violence.
A women-only space is also one of the ways that we create a sense of sanctuary for women. Women say that they want women-only services for “safety, empathy, trust, support, they’re less intimidating and focus on women’s needs”. Women tell us time and time again that being with women who have had similar experiences is a vital part of accepting that they are not to blame.
Some say that men will not go so far as to lie about being trans in order to access vulnerable women. Anyone who believes this has not spent much time with abusive men and has little idea of the lengths that some are prepared to go to.
Darren Sykes, killed his 9 and 12 year old sons Paul and Jack by luring them in to an attic with the promise of a new train set – before he locked them in and turned the house into an inferno. His intention – lifelong mental torture of Claire Throssell, his ex-wife, mother of the two now-dead two boys. I know this is an extreme example, but it is one example of a countless number and it is illustrative of the lengths that some men are prepared to take.
Violent men lie. Violent men are prepared to stand in court in a witness box and lie. Of 37 men who pleaded not guilty to murdering women in 2016, only 1 was actually found not guilty of all charges.
We are told that trans people are disproportionately victims of violence. In the last decade, in the UK, there have been 7 homicides of trans people – all biologically male; on the other hand, trans people – all of these biologically male – have killed 12, 4 of their victims were women. And in the same period, men have killed at least 1,364 women.
This is not about lack of compassion with trans people; it is not denying them human rights, privacy and dignity. Of course not. It is about recognising that women have sex-based rights and protections for a reason.
How am I – a provider of women’s services – supposed to differentiate between a man who says he is a woman and a man who contemplates assaulting, raping or killing a woman?
Men have already killed 93 UK women this year. Many thousands have been raped. Do not play Russian roulette with the lives of women who have already suffered men’s violence.
 Most definitely not on my own!
If you’re interested in finding out more about the Gender Recognition Act and implications for women, please check out Woman’s Place UK and Fair Play for Women. I’ll be speaking in Leeds on 28 September on this issue with Nic Williams from Fair Play and Stephanie Davies-Arai from TransgenderTrend.