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Feminist group backs referral of gender-balance Senedd Bill to the Supreme Court

09 Jun 2024 4 minute read
Elin Jones, Y Llywydd | Presiding Officer, AS | MS. Photo  Senedd Cymru / Welsh Parliament

Martin Shipton

A gender critical feminist group has supported a Senedd committee’s call for a Bill aimed at creating a gender-balanced Welsh Parliament to be referred to the Supreme Court.

The Welsh Government decided to pursue its Senedd reform proposals with two separate Bills. The first Bill will increase the number of Senedd Members from 60 to 96 and change the electoral system to one where all MSs are elected via a “closed list”, where political parties have decided the order in which their candidates stand to be elected.

This proposal has been criticised on the basis that it gives too much power over candidate selection to party officials and could lead to a Senedd where independent-minded MSs are excluded.

The other Bill relates to the creation of a gender-balanced Senedd. It was separated off from the main Bill because of fears that it could be overruled by Westminster because it encroaches into non-devolved policy areas like equality.

Debate

Welcoming the decision of the committee scrutinising the Bill to recommend that it be referred to the Supreme Court to see whether it lies within the powers of the Senedd to pass it, Cathy Larkman, from the Women’s Rights Network in Wales said: “We note the outcome of Stage 1 of the Electoral Candidates Lists Bill, which seeks to introduce mandatory ‘gender quotas’ for Senedd elections in Wales.

“This is despite the fact that the representation of women as members of the Senedd is close to parity and has previously achieved 50% without any such legislation. This will now proceed to Stage 2 of the process and a plenary debate will take place at the Senedd on June 18.

“We gave evidence to the committee on April 24, outlining our many concerns about this Bill. We note that these concerns are shared by other groups and individuals, including the Equality and Human Rights Commission.

“Not least of our concerns is the sleight of hand being deployed by the Welsh Government around ‘gender statements’ whereby a candidate will state whether they are a ‘woman’ or ‘not a woman’. This is clearly open to abuse. It risks a process of unchallenged self-identification of sex, whereby men claiming that they feel they are women will be able to stand for political office as ‘women’.

“The move to introduce at least 50% women could also therefore mean 100% men are elected. Self-identification of sex is not the law in the UK and the Welsh Government do not have the power to meddle with that. Equality law is a reserved matter – as the Scottish Government also found out.”

‘Potential for abuse’

Ms Larkman added: “We welcome the recommendation that the Bill include an offence of corrupt practice in any making of a false ‘gender statement’. We are glad that the committee has therefore recognised the potential for abuse. Of course, this could instead be made a lot clearer and less open to abuse and inevitable legal challenge, if the Welsh Government had defined its terms within the Bill, which they have failed to do so to date.

“We note that the Minister responsible has still not answered the question of what is a woman within the view of the Bill. Why is she, and the Welsh Government, avoiding this very basic issue, which the majority of the population are very clear on?

“We are happy to help her – a woman is an adult human female. She, and her colleagues in all parties, should not be so coy about this. Any other such interpretation within the scope of this Bill would be unlawful.

“We not only agree with the concern of the Reform Bill committee that the Bill could lead to legal challenges, but are certain that it will. The Llywydd has also been very clear that there is not the necessary legislative competence to introduce this Bill.

“We therefore welcome their recommendation that the Counsel General must refer the Bill to the Supreme Court for scrutiny on the issue of legislative competence first. This will potentially avoid a costly and protracted legal challenge, lasting damage to the reputation of the Welsh Government, and any doubt about the legality of electoral outcomes in Wales.”

Empower

The LGBT campaign group Stonewall Cymru has previously stated: “We fully support any measure to empower all women, including trans women, to take part in politics and seek election in the Senedd.

“Trans women make up 0.1% of the population in Wales. However, it is important that legislation such as this is inclusive of trans people and of other minority groups to ensure that our communities are all reflected within the Senedd.”


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Linda Jones
Linda Jones
1 day ago

Surely we need a tailored registration system so that those men who have fully transitioned to female can be publicly registered and issued with a new rebirth certificate stating their new gender. Self identification is dangerous and open to abuse

Riki
Riki
15 hours ago
Reply to  Linda Jones

Or medication! And a Psychologist.

Cedwyn
Cedwyn
12 hours ago
Reply to  Linda Jones

With respect it’s impossible for a male to ‘transition’ in any meaningful way to become a female, no matter what harmful drugs he takes, or how he consents to be mutilated by having his bits chopped off, or waving a piece of paper declaiming ‘I’m a woman’. A man is a man and no amount of chemicals, sharp medical instruments or well meaning legal gender woo-hoo will change that, ever. Keep men, all men, out of women’s safe sex spaces and keep gender ideology out of our schools.

Mab Meirion
Mab Meirion
1 day ago

Closed lists are an affront to the concept of Democracy, which solicitor politicians are behind this mini coup ?

hdavies15
hdavies15
21 hours ago
Reply to  Mab Meirion

Looks increasingly like most of the barstewards are in on the plot. What a shower !

Gaynor
Gaynor
23 hours ago

Why are transmen constantly overlooked in this argument?

hdavies15
hdavies15
22 hours ago
Reply to  Gaynor

Because they don’t make much if any any noise about their situation. On the other hand Men claiming to be women as opposed to those engaging in the long and painful gender transition programme, seem to be dominated by a noisy petulant bunch. Perhaps one or more of them might care to give us an insider’s view on this.

Dafydd
Dafydd
19 hours ago
Reply to  Gaynor

Because they lack the broadly male trait of over-assertiveness

Will Jones
Will Jones
22 hours ago

Meanwhile children are going without food and people can’t pay bills

Twm Siôn C
Twm Siôn C
19 hours ago
Reply to  Will Jones

The middle class Woke brigade are less inteested in silly things like that while enjoying a G&T in their Cardiff and the Bay bubble.

Cofio’r Werin Cymru !

Rob
Rob
21 hours ago

What a complete and utter waste of time. How about getting rid of gender quotas completely and allow us to elect candidates on the ability to do the job.

Mab Meirion
Mab Meirion
20 hours ago
Reply to  Rob

Candidates we can all recognise as suitable, anyone can do due diligence unless it is a secret society eh! Mick…

Ali Morris
Ali Morris
20 hours ago

Men can NEVER become female, that’s a biological impossibility, so anyone in the comments who think that need to go back to biology lessons. Whatever ‘transition’ means, to the overwhelming majority of men that means growing their hair, putting on so-called female clothing and changing their name to one chosen from a list Stonewall must have made up. You can’t alter genes by taking hormones to grow breast tissue, so they will be males with large breasts that’s all. Being a woman means being born into a system of patriarchy, putting up with sexual remarks since early teenage years, menstruating,… Read more »

Last edited 20 hours ago by Ali Morris
Richard E
Richard E
19 hours ago

Lets hope this well meant Woke madness goes into the long grass of the legal system and stays there.

We want a hard working, enlarged, empowered Senedd that can deliver for ALL of those living in our nation in a respectful way.

Nothing More – Nothing Less

Linda Jones
Linda Jones
19 hours ago
Reply to  Richard E

I dont want an enlarged Senedd, more jobs for the boys and girls.

Richard
Richard
17 hours ago
Reply to  Linda Jones

boys , girls and trans no doubt ?

Riki
Riki
15 hours ago

I want my politics to be based on Merit! Oh wait! That’s an oxymoron because such a thing doesn’t actually exist. My bad!

Daf
Daf
21 minutes ago

Welsh Government making bad law (which would be open to costly legal challenges, involving taxpayers’ money) is going to undermine their credibility even further. If they think that trans people are under represented politically, then they need to define the problem clearly (and be prepared for some people to disagree with them) and address it transparently. Not fudge a sort of messy ‘back door self ID’ solution, to the detriment of female candidates. I note some of the Senedd contributions on the subject involve pointing to other countries (who are very different politically anyway), and saying, ‘well they don’t really… Read more »

Daf
Daf
13 minutes ago

The herd of elephants in the room is that most of the women’s/equalities organisations contributing to this debate (not, notably, the group in the article) are funded by Welsh Government. Welsh Government will only fund groups that support gender self ID. Then Welsh Government use the contribution of those groups as evidence of support for gender self ID! So there is a profoundly dishonest and undemocratic circle of feedback at work here. Scottish Government have the same approach. Their gender reform bill was catastrophic for Scottish politics. I wonder if that’s why Welsh Government are going down the back door… Read more »

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