We are delighted that on 25 November, the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women, Polity will be publishing Defending Women’s Spaces, written by our CEO, Karen Ingala Smith. And, we’re pleased to announce our collaboration with Woman’s Place UK (WPUK) in a campaign to ensure that MPs and elected representatives receive a copy of the book.
In January 2016, the UK parliament’s Women and Equalities Committee published the Transgender Equality Report. The report recommended that the Equality Act single-sex provisions should not apply in relation to people whose acquired gender was recognised under the Gender Recognition Act (GRA). The government later announced that the GRA was to be reviewed focusing on self-identification and simplification/de-medicalisation to make the process better for trans and non-binary people. The impact of this change on women was barely considered. The resistance to the proposal was led by grassroots feminists, as individuals or newly constituted groups such as WPUK, defending women-only spaces and women’s sex-based rights.
Recognising the growing threat to women-only services for women victim-survivors of men’s violence, nia’s trustees agreed to make the protection of single-sex spaces a strategic aim. We are proud that we were the first and for some time only UK organisation to develop a Prioritising Women Policy based on the provisions in the Equality Act 2010 to protect women-only spaces, and that other organisations such as Women’s aid (England) have followed suit.
nia supports over one thousand women every year. Our services include refuges for some of the most forgotten and vulnerable women in our society: women who have been prostituted, have substance-use problems and who have been abused by a succession of men, sometimes since birth. These women need a safe space – without men – to heal.
In Defending Women’s Spaces, Karen Ingala Smith sets out the evidence which shows that women’s specific needs are not met in mixed-sex spaces and that women are subjected to discrimination which cannot be addressed by so-called gender neutral or gender identification-based policy and provision. She also asks why nia was the only organisation to speak out while other established organisations purportedly set up to advance women’s rights and the interests of survivors of men’s violence failed to defend women’s rights.
In a climate where accusations of transphobia are frequently made in attempts to silence even the mildest challenge to the legitimacy of gender identity ideology, nia and WPUK believe that it is essential that policy and law makers understand the need for and defend women’s sex-based rights and protections. Defending Women’s Spaces is a book of huge importance for women both in the UK and beyond. We are proud to prioritise women.
Board of trustees, nia