Karishma Dharni

In Support of A Woman’s Place and Free Speech

Statement by Southall Black Sisters

A Woman’s Place is an organisation set up by women with whom SBS has worked and will continue to work to fulfil the promise of women’s liberation. We reject the charge of ‘transphobia’ levelled against them, and we are deeply saddened to see the debate around the issue of trans identity, gender and sex descend into the most bankrupt form of identity politics, with the demand for the Labour Party leadership candidates to sign up to vague and meaningless pledges to expel those who express ‘transphobic views’. Signing up to such expulsion pledges in the context of real and difficult debates about sex and gender does not reflect the values that we associate with the Labour Party: of free speech, of open debate and equality, including for women. It is alarming to see the conflation of any questioning, disagreement or criticism of the current ‘trans’ debate with accusations of hatred and ‘phobia’. Standing up for the protection of women’s rights as enshrined in the Equality Act does not translate into ‘causing harm’. We in SBS know what it is like to be at the receiving end of charges of ‘phobia’ – of ‘Islamophobia’ or ‘Hinduphobia’ – and of ‘causing offence’ for challenging religious fundamentalist ideology and politics which foment violence and discrimination towards women, religious and sexual minorities. But this cannot deter us. To remain silent is to allow real hatred and misogyny to go unchallenged, whilst fear, self-censorship and the stifling of a democratic culture of debate and solidarity continues unabated. This is why we were so heartened to see this piece from TransOutlook which echoes many of our thoughts and concerns about the current debate: “Calling Woman’s Place transphobic is nonsense. Labour must rethink.” by Rob Harkavy.

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