2021 Manifesto: Welsh Labour

Key commitments and comments

  • Strengthen the Violence against Women, Domestic Abuse and Sexual Violence Strategy to include a focus on violence against women in the street and workplace as well as the home. Expand the ‘Ask and Act’ and ‘Don’t be a Bystander’ training and awareness campaigns.

This specific reference to violence against women suggests a recognition of the particular threats women face because of our sex, which is to be welcomed.

  • Work with partners to establish an equalities legal service to provide support on unfair or discriminatory employment practices. We will explore legislation to address pay gaps based on gender, sexual orientation, ethnicity, disability, and other forms of discrimination and ensure public bodies and those receiving public funding address pay disparities. We will implement targets around Gender Budgeting so that all decisions by a Welsh Government are seen through a gender lens.

In the very next pledge, however, Welsh Labour uses ‘gender’ in reference to equalities work, excluding ‘sex’ despite this being the actual protected characteristic. An ‘equalities legal service’ that uses incorrect interpretations of or conflates the protected characteristics of ‘sex’ and ‘gender reassignment’ will not be able effectively to challenge discrimination.

The manifesto provides no definition of ‘gender’ so it is not clear what viewing Welsh Government decisions through a ‘gender lens’ would involve.

  • Incorporate the United Nations Convention for the Elimination of all forms of Discrimination against Women and the UN Convention on the Rights of Disabled People into Welsh law.

This looks positive. Article 1 of the UN Convention for the Elimination of all forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) defines discrimination as:

…any distinction, exclusion or restriction made on the basis of sex (our emphasis) which has the effect or purpose of impairing or nullifying the recognition, enjoyment or exercise by women, irrespective of their marital status, on a basis of equality of men and women, of human rights and fundamental freedoms in the political, economic, social, cultural, civil or any other field.

  • Create a Race Disparity Unit alongside an Equality Data Unit to ensure an inclusive evidence base to inform decision making in government. We will expand our Access to Elected Office programme to encourage more Women, Black, Asian, and Minority Ethnic and disabled people to stand for elected office. We will implement the recommendations of Reflecting Wales in Running Wales: Diversity and Inclusion Strategy for Public Appointments in Wales (2020-2023).

Again, much will rest on definitions. In Scotland, the statutory guidance accompanying the Gender Representation on Public Boards (Scotland) Act 2018 – designed to ensure that women made up at least 50% of a board’s non-executive members – stated that:

…for the purposes of the Act, “woman” includes “a person who has the protected characteristic of gender reassignment (within the meaning of section 7 of the Equality Act 2010)…

The Act, however, does not require an appointing person to ask a candidate to prove that they meet the definition of woman in the Act.

A pledge to increase the number of women in elected office and public appointments is meaningless if the category of ‘woman’ can be redefined to include men who identify as women. It’s reasonable to assume that this is Welsh Labour’s intention, given the explicit support for self-ID and assertion that ‘trans women are women’ in the statement from Equalities Minister Jane Hutt and Counsel General Jeremy Miles in July 2020.

  • Use all available powers to protect our young people through banning all aspects of LGBTQ+ conversion therapy that are in our powers and seek the devolution of any necessary additional powers. We will also work to devolve the Gender Recognition Act and support our Trans community.

Conversion therapy that attempts to change a person’s natural sexual orientation is a harmful, coercive practice that is rightly abhorred. We have grave concerns, however, about the drive to label as ‘conversion therapy’ any form of counselling or support other than unequivocal ‘affirmation’ for children and young people experiencing gender distress. Our position paper goes into more detail on this. It is not clear how Welsh Labour defines ‘conversion therapy’ here.

No-one should face harassment or discrimination because of who they are, how they identify, or how they choose to present and trans people rightly have specific legal protection under the Equality Act 2010.

Welsh Labour has not explained why it wants to devolve the Gender Recognition Act, but given the statement from the Equalities Minister and the Counsel General referred to above, it is likely that a system of self-ID is the aim.

In this case, a commitment from Welsh Labour to a full public consultation is also necessary, including clear acknowledgement and discussion of the potential impact on the rights of women and girls.

Read Welsh Labour’s manifesto here