Legal & the Law · Single Sex / Spaces · Social Inclusion

At risk groups: Can trades unions help establish real risk levels?

There is debate about the reality of otherwise of risks for women, trans, gay and lesbian people and others in shared intimate spaces.

Who must take responsibility for assessing the evidence of real risks to (variously defined) vulnerable groups? Do trades unions have a role here? And if so, how?

Is there a tension between defining who is at risk of what, whilst also seeking to ensure the safe inclusion of everyone?

[Read and discuss more about Social inclusionSingle Sex Spaces and the Law.]

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Interesting questions! Here are my thoughts-
Unions play an important part in workplace risk assessment and management, as they advocate for the needs and safety of their members and Health and Safety reps have specialist training and a range of rights embedded in Employment Law. They should operate within the framework of the Equality Act 2010 and so pay special attention to any risks associated with any of the 9 protected characteristics.

In terms of tensions between risks and inclusion; risk assessments should take account of all circumstances and so may need to balance a potential risk to some individuals against inclusivity for others. Again, I think the Equality Act provides a useful framework, with its onus upon inclusivity but it’s exceptions which allow services to “discriminate” if they can demonstrate that this is necessary and it is proportionate and legitimate. In practice, I think things are rarely black and white, for example, if an individual can’t access a service because the provider is using an EA2010 exception, then there should be a way to provide an equivalent service, just in a different way.

I’m not sure if this comment fits here or somewhere else!? I just wanted to comment on this dialogue at Alison Bailey’s tribunal. (She is taking her employer to court for alleged discrimination based on her gender critical views).

BC: [new doc] tweets from 2015 ‘Kill all Terfs’ ‘Girl Dick TERFS can choke on my’ ‘Enjoy my lady dick in your mouth cunt wipe’ ‘shoot a terf today’ ‘all terfs deserve to be shot in the head’ ‘kill all terfs’ someone holding two knives ‘POV you’re a terf in my mentions’ ‘suck on my dick, pref choke on it’
IO:has BC got a question?
BC: this sort of language accompanied the word terf in discussions around this topic
KM: these words are not reflective of trans communities. 
BC: i don’t suggest that this is how a majority of how transpeople behave but i am suggesting that you knew the term terf is used as a derogatory term and was used with violent rhetoric
KM: I disagree – there are instances but it’s not the norm. It’s usually used by a minority to refer to radical feminists who are in power and who are oppressing transpeople and who want to remove transpeople from their spaces. It’s not the majority way that transpeople use the term terf.

It’s that last comment that intrigues me. KM works for Stonewall. He is asserting that transpeople are oppressed by strong women. Well, Stonewall is a lobbying group so maybe they would say that as their remit is to push that agenda. If they really believe transpeople are particularly oppressed and GC women are oppressors then, in their eyes, that excuses any abusive behaviour or distortion of the truth and misrepresentation of the law from their “side” as they believe they are fighting a war on behalf of the vulnerable. However, there is much evidence* to show that women are disadvantaged and discriminated against across the board and so others could equally frame transwomen as members of the oppressor (male) class identifying as the (female) oppressed class.
I don’t believe this would be seen as acceptable with regards to any other disadvantaged group.

I believe this clear demonstration of Stonewall’s one sided lobbying makes it evident that law makers, strategists and politicians must listen to both sides of this debate. It is simply unacceptable for the Labour Party to allow one powerful lobby group, with a very fixed agenda, to have a louder voice and greater access to policy makers than others who have a different, opposing, agenda. Particularly when there is so much evidence that the war on women is far from over.

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