- 🏳️⚧️ Why the UK is split over trans rights in Scotland.
- ❗ New data on sexism in France.
- 🇰🇷 The Korean women saying no to having more children.
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Trans people are not a threat to cis women
It’s been very difficult watching a toxic debate engulf the UK over the rights of trans people. When Scotland – which has its own parliament and can make some of its laws independently of the rest of the UK – passed a bill making it easier for trans people to obtain a gender recognition certificate, the UK government blocked it. This is the first time the UK parliament has rejected a Scottish law since Scotland was given powers to pass its own legislation in 1998.
Why has this constitutional crisis happened over a trans rights issue? Because over the past decade there has been a well-organised effort by a small number of feminists in the UK to present trans rights as a threat to cis women.
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The Scottish law makes it easier for trans people to receive a gender recognition certificate by removing the need for a medical diagnosis and reducing the minimum time period for which they have to have lived in their authentic gender from two years to three months (or six months for 16-18 year olds).
In the UK, a gender recognition certificate allows a person to have their authentic gender reflected on birth, marriage and death certificates. That’s it. It does not give trans people access to women’s prisons, domestic violence shelters, toilets, changing rooms or any other single-gender space, because they already have the right to use those services, as they should. Trans women experience domestic violence, need to try on clothes, go to the bathroom and yes, go to prison, just like cis women.
Yet opponents of the bill say women’s spaces are at risk due to this law change, based on a ‘slippery slope’ argument which holds that any effort to make it easier to officially change gender will also make it easier for perpetrators of gender-based violence to enter these spaces to prey on women and girls. We have seen these kinds of arguments used against the expansion of LGBTQIA+ rights before, including marriage equality, which opponents said would open the door to everything from incest to polygamy. The arguments have always turned out to be wrong because they are based on logical fallacy. But they are designed to scare people, and they often do.
Isolated cases of trans women committing gender-based violence should not be taken as evidence that trans women in general are a risk to cis women. Instead, the UK could look to Chile, Argentina, Brazil, Norway, Denmark, Belgium, Ireland and Malta to see that making it easier for trans people to live in their authentic gender does not lead to increased rates of violence against women and girls. It just makes life easier for trans people, and that is something that should be welcomed.
The struggle against patriarchal violence is something that cis women, trans women, trans men, non-binary people and other gender-diverse people share. Ending gender-based violence will not be achieved by treating trans people as a threat or by excluding them from the services they need.
It is frustrating to have to say this in 2023, but as a cis British woman, my rights and my safety are not at risk from my country extending more rights to the trans community. We are all part of the same quest for gender equality — if trans people become more free, then so do I.
France is sexist (and so is everywhere else)
A report from the French High Council for Equality last month confirmed what most women already know from their daily life: sexism still exists in France. Given the fact that no country on earth has reached gender equality, it would have been truly impressive if France had managed to eradicate sexism in the 12 months since the previous report. But it’s always worth analysing the domestic context that might lead to sexism manifesting in a particular way.
For example, it is perhaps unsurprising that one in five men aged 18-34 don’t believe it’s a problem for a man to slap his wife when we consider the muted reaction to politician Adrien Quatennens doing exactly that. Quatennens, who has been given a four-month suspended prison sentence for domestic violence, has only been expelled from his party, the left-wing France Insoumise, for the length of his judicial penalty. He has also been asked to complete a training course.
On the day of his trial last year, Le Monde reports that an ally circulated a series of talking points which could have come straight from the pages of the high council’s report, inviting party members to tell the media that Quatennens had been “condemned for a slap and for nothing else” and that he “is not a violent man, but a man caught in a difficult divorce”.
It is also unsurprising to see such high levels of sexism exist within a public sphere which sees women’s bodies and clothing – especially those belonging to Muslim women – frequently targeted in debates about national values. Nor should it be a shock that masculinist beliefs are widespread in a country where one in three people voted for the far-right in the first round of last year’s presidential elections.
The good news is that feminist movements in France are growing in influence and reach every day, which can be seen everywhere from the calls to action of the colleuses that line our streets to the fact that 81% of French people support the plan to inscribe the right to abortion in the constitution, a measure which just passed the conservative-leaning senate. And with every feminist victory, égalité gets a little bit closer.
People won’t give birth just because you want them to
In an opinion piece for the New York Times, journalist Hawon Jung explains why 65% of Korean women are deciding not to have children:
Many of the Korean women shunning dating, marriage and childbirth are sick of pervasive sexism and furious about a culture of violent chauvinism. Their refusal to be “baby-making machines,” according to protest banners I’ve seen, is retaliation.
South Korea, which has the world’s lowest fertility rate, shows that women will not perform the labour of social reproduction for the sake of the economy if they have to do so in a profoundly gender-unequal society. It’s a similar story in China, which in the past ten years has abandoned its one-child policy and is now encouraging families to have up to three children, only to find that many women don’t want to. Its population began to fall this year for the first time since the 1980s.
It is always striking to me the way we can talk about population changes without acknowledging the human bodies behind those rising or falling birth rates: those of women and people who can get pregnant who often (but not often enough) make an informed, rational decision about whether having a child is worth their while.
The only reason someone should ever give birth is because they want to, and if governments don’t work to build a society in which women and gender-diverse people can do so safely and without fear of discrimination or falling into poverty, then who can blame them for going on strike?
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