Labour say no reason to expect change in ‘women-only’ policy amid trans debate

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Rosie Duffield MP had called for Labour to clarify its equalities position (UK Parliament/Jessica Taylor) (PA Media)
Rosie Duffield MP had called for Labour to clarify its equalities position (UK Parliament/Jessica Taylor) (PA Media)

There is “no reason to expect” Labour will change its policy on allowing for “women-only” spaces, according to a spokesman, amid a dispute in the party over transgender issues.

MP Rosie Duffield had called for clarity on Labour’s equalities position under Sir Keir Starmer’s leadership after announcing she did not feel safe to attend the party’s conference this weekend, having previously spoken out on the trans debate.

A party spokesman said Sir Keir met the Canterbury MP on Tuesday, along with holding separate discussions with the “LGBT caucus within” the Parliamentary Labour Party (PLP) to discuss “where we are on the policy issues”.

I've no reason to expect it is going to change, no

Labour spokesman

Asked whether Sir Keir believed trans women “should be allowed in all public spaces”, the spokesman said Labour policy remained as it was in the 2019 manifesto when Jeremy Corbyn was leader.

The spokesman said: “Our position on this hasn’t changed.

“Just so we’re absolutely clear on what it is, what we have said is that Labour would work to update the Gender Recognition Act to enable a process for gender self-identification.

“We also continue to support the implementation of the Equality Act, including the single-sex exemption which allows the provision of women-only spaces.”

The Equality Act 2010 has a presumption towards the inclusion of trans women but has some exceptions which allow for services to discriminate because of gender reassignment, with prisons and women’s refuges among those understood to be included in that definition.

The explanatory notes to the Act cite a group counselling service for female victims of sexual assault where organisers “could exclude a woman with the protected characteristic of gender reassignment if they judge that clients would be unlikely to attend the session if she was there”.

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer met with Rosie Duffield on Tuesday (Commons/PA) (PA Wire)
Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer met with Rosie Duffield on Tuesday (Commons/PA) (PA Wire)

Pressed whether Labour’s position could change, the spokesman replied: “I’ve no reason to expect it is going to change, no.”

Later, a Labour spokesperson said: “Trans people are one of the most discriminated groups in society – two in five young trans people have attempted suicide. This is totally unacceptable.

“Labour would work with people to update the Gender Recognition Act to enable a process for gender self-identification; and we also continue to support the implementation of the Equality Act, including the single-sex exemption which allows the provision of women-only spaces.

“This law rightly assumes the inclusion of trans women, except in specific circumstances.”

Ms Duffield has faced online attacks for being “transphobic” over her opposition to “male-bodied biological men” being allowed to self-identify as female in order to access women-only spaces such as prisons and domestic violence refuges.

She said she had been subjected to some “pretty awful” abuse and did not want her presence at the party’s conference in Brighton to become a distraction.

On the decision of Ms Duffield not to attend the autumn conference, Labour said it took safety and security of everyone attending the conference “very seriously”.

A spokesman added: “We believe debate should always be held in an atmosphere of respect for all points of view.”

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