Of all people, female prisoners deserve single-sex spaces

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Of all people, female prisoners deserve single-sex spaces

(Photo by In Pictures Ltd./Corbis via Getty Images)

In recent months, the Minister for Women and Equalities, Liz Truss, has repeatedly made a clear commitment to protect women’s single sex spaces. In April, talking about the Gender Recognition Act consultation she said: “there are three very important principles that I will be putting place. First of all, the protection of single-sex spaces.” Shortly afterwards she repeated the same commitment to the Women and Equalities Committee.

Since then, we’ve waited for a policy announcement — but there has been only silence. The delay is surprising and worrying, because single sex spaces need explicit protection, possibly now more than ever. This is because, across the public sector, under the last ten years of Tory government, the seemingly universal recognition that women need single sex spaces — for reasons of privacy, dignity, safety — has been undermined. The starkest example of this has been within our prison service, where it has caused serious harm.

The most notorious example is the case of Stephen Wood, now going by the name of Karen White. He was placed in a women’s prison despite “having had neither surgery nor hormone treatment,” and despite “being a convicted paedophile on remand for grievous bodily harm, multiple rapes and other sexual offences against women.” He sexually assaulted female prisoners.

As a result of cases such as this, the Ministry of Justice reviewed its guidance regarding the treatment of transgender prisoners. Nevertheless, despite the seemingly clear legislative legitimacy provided by the Equality Act, it failed to make a full commitment to single sex spaces.

Now at last, the Government and its Ministry will be challenged in the Courts. A female prisoner is bringing a Judicial Review against the Government after she was sexually assaulted by a transgender, male convicted rapist who was placed in a women’s prison. The victim is challenging the lawfulness of placing male-bodied transgender prisoners convicted of sexual and violent offences against women in the female estate. The High Court case was due to begin last week but has just been adjourned till later this year.

It is hard to believe, when we have situations like the above, that the Conservatives are delaying whatever legislative, regulatory, or directive requirements it would take to reinstate protection for women. Are they not in charge of the Ministry of Justice? Or are we already living in a post-democratic age where the behemoth that is the public sector does its own thing, with the government of the day, voted in by the people, too enfeebled to establish its authority?

Make no mistake; the public sector is suffering from ideological capture in the shape of “gender identity ideology”; and that capture is undermining science, data and research, and women’s rights. To illustrate this we need to look no further than the Minstry of Justice’s revised policy document that covers the care and management of transgender individuals within the prisons estate.

Alarm bells go off straight away when we read that the policy refers to individuals who express a wish to live as a gender “opposite to the biological sex assigned to them at birth”. This is scientifically illiterate. Everyone knows that sex is not assigned at birth. But the language is familiar — you will find it wherever institutions have succumbed to gender ideology.

The document reveals that the Prison Service’s ability to manage data and report truth seems woefully compromised. As of May 2018 there were apparently 139 transgender prisoners. “Of these, 111 reported their legal gender as male, 23 reported their legal gender as female and five did not state their gender. When asked about the gender the prisoner identified as, 114 identified as female, 19 as male and six did not provide a response. In terms of how they self-identified, 89 gave a response. 27 identified as gender-fluid, 10 as intersex, four as non-binary and the remaining 48 gave a ‘prefer not to say’ response.”

The Ministry of Justice’s policy document goes on seemingly to mis-state the law. It says of individuals with a Gender Recognition Certificate (GRC) “Where individuals have gained legal recognition, they must be treated in accordance with their legally recognised gender in every respect.” This isn’t true. The Equality Act explicitly states that there are circumstances where people with a GRC can nevertheless be treated according to their biological sex.

Nevertheless, the Ministry of Justice continues, “The Gender Recognition Act 2004 section 9 says that when a full GRC is issued to a person, the person’s gender becomes, for all purposes, their acquired gender. This means that transgender women prisoners with GRCs must be treated in the same way as biological women for all purposes”.  Yet the Equality Act Schedule 23 provides that males may be excluded from single-sex spaces, services and communal accommodation for women when this is a proportionate means to a legitimate aim. A male may be excluded, despite the protected characteristic of gender reassignment. Read the schedule. That women require spaces that exclude all males is self-evident: single-sex spaces exist for reasons of safety, dignity and privacy. The female prison estate is surely a definitive example of a facility that should be single sex.

The Ministry of Justice has unilaterally brought in sex Self-ID, a policy now explicitly rejected by the Government. It says that, “Individuals managed by HMPPS are able to self-declare that they are transgender and are supported to express the gender (or non-gender) with which they identify, with staff using correct pronouns”. This appears to mean that a violent rapist can declare that he is female, and from then on female staff will be required to refer to him as she.

Also, “Individuals who are transgender must be allowed to adopt a gender-appropriate or gender neutral name and be addressed by others consistent with the gender with they identify, or as gender neutral… Staff must make every effort to communicate with individuals in ways that respect their gender identity, using appropriate verbal and written communication and use of pronouns”. This is offensive for women and is surely wide open to abuse and pernicious power-play. We are moving towards — or have we already arrived at — an era of compelled speech?

A staggering section implies that male prisoners may be able to hide their sex from female staff and prisoners. “All individuals who disclose that they have applied for, or have gained, a GRC must be asked to provide written consent for their gender which was assigned at birth… Consent is entirely voluntary on the part of the individual.” Where are the concerns for the safety and dignity of women? Forgotten?

Pages and pages of ideological capture. Mangled science. Meaningless data. Compelled speech. Society’s most vulnerable women placed at risk. Thank goodness for the courage of the anonymous female prisoner applying for Judicial Review. But we have a Minister of Women and Equalities who has repeatedly committed to the protection of women’s single sex spaces. Surely this is evidence that she needs to act. What causes the delay? Do we live in a well-functioning democracy? Or is the ideologically-captured behemoth that is our administrative bureaucracy in charge? Where does that leave us?

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Member ratings
  • Well argued: 92%
  • Interesting points: 93%
  • Agree with arguments: 95%
53 ratings - view all

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