Yesterday’s joint statement by Tasmanian women’s groups, Women’s Legal Service Tasmania, Engender Equality, Hobart Women’s Shelter and Women’s Health Tasmania, continues the litany of oversimplified assurances about the benign nature of the radical birth registration and anti-discrimination law reforms proposed by Labor and the Greens.
If they want to justify their claim that the amendments are ‘narrow in scope’, why not break them down for us, in plain language.
Surely the legal staff at the Tasmanian Women’s Legal Service could undertake this task, and answer any criticism of the amendments once and for all.
These organisations say Women Speak Tasmania doesn’t represent the large number of women associated with them, but how many women, exactly, do THEY represent?
We generously estimate their Boards and staff to number around 120 people in total. But what about their clients?
Has Hobart Women’s Shelter, for example, asked all its traumatised family violence clients how they would feel about sharing sleeping quarters with an intact male who identifies as a woman?
Women Speak Tasmania has had personal contact with many women in Tasmania, and we have formed close links with an expanding number of women’s groups, both interstate and overseas, in a short period of time.
Rather than presuming to speak for Women’s Legal Service Tasmania, Engender Equality, Hobart Women’s Shelter and Women’s Health Tasmania, Women Speak Tasmania openly acknowledges the fundamental ideological difference between us.
They say ‘transgender women are women’. Our position is that they are not. They are biological males, and in the centuries long history of female oppression, biology matters.
Women Speak Tasmania is aligned with women’s groups in the UK, like Fair Play for Women, who are opposing amendments to UK legislation that will allow transgender persons to change the sex marker on their birth certificate on the basis of self-declared ‘gender identity.
The same changes are proposed by Labor and the Greens in Tasmania, and the UK experience has produced several well-publicised instances of self-identifying transwomen committing offences against female persons in ‘service’ settings.
For example, intact biological male transwoman, Karen White, was recently convicted of sexually assaulting women in a female prison.
How can these Tasmanian Women’s groups openly denounce the shocking violence perpetrated by men against women, and at the same time naively assume no man will take advantage of laws allowing them to self-identify as female and prey on vulnerable women and girls? Are they totally oblivious to the inconsistency of their position?
How do they feel about laws that will allow intact adult males to legally take positions as leaders in female-only organisations like Girl Guides? Does anyone who respects the right of young girls to a safe, female-only space think abuse of those laws will never happen?
The proposal to issue birth certificates, by default, with no sex marker, is clearly unpopular with the Tasmanian community.
Women Speak Tasmania is equally concerned about the implications of allowing self-identification changes to sex markers on birth certificates.
Women and girls need to be assured of access to safe, secure female-only spaces, services and facilities. If male-bodied persons can become legally female, literally at the stroke of a pen, how can female-only organisations maintain their single-sex integrity? Are the exceptions allowed in current anti-discrimination law robust enough to allow them to reject a biological male who is ‘legally’ female?
Women Speak Tasmania has put forward an alternative legislative framework that protects the rights of female persons and transgender people – see our Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/womenspeaktas/.
Finally, we reject the assertion by Women’s Legal Service Tasmania, Engender Equality, Hobart Women’s Shelter and Women’s Health Tasmania that putting forward a women’s rights argument leads to ‘greater danger, including physical assaults to transgender women, non-binary individuals, and women who do not conform to stereotypes of femininity’.
All available data suggests violence against these groups is overwhelmingly perpetrated by MEN, not by women standing up for their basic human rights.
Bronwyn Williams is a retired lawyer and social worker
Women Speak Tasmania is a network of women and their supporters based in Tasmania. We operate as a secular group. We are not aligned with any political party or ideology. We share research and information on a broad range of women’s rights issues. These include – female only spaces, services, groups and facilities; the sexualisation of girls and women; pornography/prostitution and the harms of the global sex trade; surrogacy as a violation of women’s human rights; and ending male violence against girls and women. We understand that sex-based oppression affects all women, and underlies all abuses of female rights. We support the right of women to speak freely about the inequities and discrimination they experience. We aim to give a voice to girls and women in the pursuit of justice, peace and security. We support full autonomy and personal freedom for all women.