Shadow justice secretary agrees with JK Rowling over gender critical views

Shabana Mahmood says she supports women with gender critical views
Shabana Mahmood says she supports women with gender critical views - Heathcliff O'Malley

The Labour shadow justice secretary has said she agrees with JK Rowling that “biological sex is real and is immutable”.

Shabana Mahmood, the shadow justice secretary, expressed support for women who express gender critical views, saying that they should not be “stigmatised” for saying them.

Ms Mahmood, who took up the role last September, used her first major speech to warn of the dangers of “the rule of the mob” when “the rule of law fails”.

The shadow frontbencher cited the MeToo movement, saying it was “a powerful moment of liberation” but also called it a “damning indictment” of the legal system when “the only justice on offer was justice by hashtag, and not by a judge or jury”.

Hashtag movements

Asked about whether she had broader concerns about freedom of speech on social media, particularly regarding debates on gender, Ms Mahmood said: “Hashtag movements are sometimes used to shut down debate and often many women have had to go to court, usually in employment tribunals, in order to clarify their rights to free speech.

“To clarify their right to believe that for example because you referenced JK Rowling, clarify their right to say that biological sex is real and is immutable – a position that I also agree with.

“But they shouldn’t be in the position of losing their jobs for having views that are perfectly legal, and that they are perfectly entitled to express.”

It comes after Wes Streeting earlier this month admitted that he had been wrong to say that “trans women are women” in the wake of the Cass review into NHS gender care.

Last night, Ms Mahmood added: “I think that actually in this era of social media, that’s been a real challenge for people to hold onto what we would consider are normal legal norms.

“That which is allowed within the law you shouldn’t be stigmatised for, or prevented from saying, and you certainly shouldn’t feel that you might lose your job for holding perfectly legal views.”

The MP for Birmingham Ladywood said that “some of those issues are being resolved now” but said that she believed “it’s taken us far too long to get to this point”.

‘Toxic debate’

“I think that campaigners, like JK Rowling and others, have had to lead the fight in this area, which I know it’s become a bit of a toxic debate, but fundamentally what we should take refuge in is the laws of our land, they’re there to protect everybody.”

Setting out her views on the rule of law at Gray’s Inn, central London, Ms Mahmood said that law “must change with the world, and when it fails to - it fails us.

“For many women, the rise of the MeToo movement was a powerful moment of liberation. But it was also a damning indictment of our system that the only justice on offer was justice by hashtag, and not by a judge or jury.”

She told members of the legal profession:  “And while monsters like Harvey Weinstein would eventually, rightly, go to trial and be found guilty of terrible crimes, others, never proved guilty of any crime, were accused and publicly shamed with no right to defence or fair hearing.

“The oldest principle of all – that all are innocent until proven guilty – was at times cast aside as the court of public opinion replaced the court of law.”