What do women need from the Labour Manifesto?
The last Labour manifesto fell well short of pledging to develop an ambitious strategy to end sexual and domestic violence and abuse, and prostitution. However, it did say that a Labour government would,
“Ensure that the single-sex-based ‘exemptions’ contained in the Equality Act 2010 are understood and fully enforced in service provision.”
It also promised sustainable funding for refuges and rape crisis services. So, in that respect, whilst it wasn’t perfect it wasn’t’ bad. It’s such a shame that two years later, the party leader couldn’t even say that only women have cervixes, which might suggest that he’d have a problem upholding a pledge to protect single-sex services.
I not here tonight to tell you what I think a strategy to end men’s violence against women and girls would look like. Suffice to say, that’s going to be my second book and I haven’t quite written it yet. Tonight, I’m here to tell you about my first book, due to be published in two months, on 25th November, called Defending Women’s Spaces.
Defending Women’s Spaces reflects my 32 years’ experience of working in specialist services for women who have been subjected to men’s violence and the research and campaigning that I’ve read and done alongside it. And my experience, like many of the women who I have worked with, and independent research: tells me that female survivors’ needs are best met in women-only spaces.
On the matter of males who transition? Do they belong in our women-only services? I say no. The minute you say that you provide access to services through gender identity, not sex, your services become mixed sex services. Males who have transitioned – if we accept that transition can be meaningful – are not a risk to women because they are trans but because they are male. The most rigorous data that we have currently on trans males and their rates of committing violent crime, tells us that at best their crimes followed the pattern of male offending, and that was only if they received psychological support as well as surgery and hormones. Without psychological support, trans males’ rates of violent offending were significantly higher than those of other males.
Defending Women’s Spaces focuses on spaces for women survivors of men’s violence though I also briefly look at other areas. I look at sex differences in perpetration of and victimisation in violence. I dismantle and disprove the myth that it is trans people who are at greatest risk of murder. I pull apart the lie that risk assessment can make it safe for males to be included in women’s spaces. I look at how telling women victim-survivors – that someone that we all know is male is actually a woman- is nothing more than a variation of the psychological abuse done to them by the man or men who had been abusing them. I look at trauma and explain why women-only space is necessary for recovery. I also explore why so many so-called specialist service providers seem to have abandoned their principles and stopped putting women first.
Including males with trans identities in services for women can mean excluding some of the most vulnerable women who need support. We know this will mean some women will self-exclude, because they tell us.
Not all women will be subjected to men’s violence and abuse, though globally one in three of us are at some point during our life. Not all women who suffer men’s violence will develop a trauma response. We can recognise that some women need or benefit from women -only spaces more than others. It’s true that not all women who have been abused by men want women-only spaces, but surely these women should not deny that right to those who do.
Labour needs to show its commitment to ending the sex hierarchy. Labour needs grow a backbone. The Labour Party needs to commit to ending men’s violence against women; and unless or until we ever reach that utopia, we need single sex spaces for women who have been subjected to men’s violence.