Stonewall crumbling – except in Wales?

Merched Cymru welcomes the news that the Equality and Human Rights Commission has cut ties with Stonewall. We hope that this might impact the largely uncritical attitude towards Stonewall in Wales.

Protecting women and girls’ sex-based rights

Merched Cymru came in to existence in response to explicit attacks on women’s sex-based rights. Our right to single-sex spaces, services and opportunities. Our right to speak, and to be listened to. Our right to name ourselves and our bodies. Our right to set boundaries. To say no.

Those rights were – and are – being eroded by a number of well-funded and influential lobby groups. Stonewall is preeminent amongst these. They have been explicit about their intention to end single-sex exemptions, and aggressive in their insistence that the men can become women simply by saying so. That chilling projection on the side of the Ministry of Justice ‘Repeat after us: trans women are women’ sums up the totalitarian nature of the ideology.

Cracks in the wall

Over the last few days, Stonewall’s reputation has taken a battering. The Unversity of Essex has recently apologised to two female academics who had been deplatformed on trumped-up charges of ‘transphobia’. Akua Reindorf, a barrister specialising in discrimination law, stated that Stonewall had provided poor advice to the University. ‘In my view the policy states the law as Stonewall would prefer it to be, rather than the law as it is,’ she wrote, in her review of the events.

Matthew Parris, one of Stonewall’s founders, wrote an article in the Times saying that the organisation had ‘lost its way.’ In 2019, another of its founders, Simon Fanshawe, spoke at the launch of the charity LGB Alliance, an organisation which counters gender ideology.

Allison Bailey

Stonewall is currently engaged in a legal battle with barrister Allison Bailey. Allison is a lesbian, and the daughter of a Jamaican immigrant mother. She is another high-profile supporter of LGB Alliance. She claims that Stonewall intervened with her employers, asking them to take action against her. This had serious impacts upon her career. Allison started a crowdfunded case ‘to stop (Stonewall) policing free speech.’

This has been postponed, since Stonewall’s legal team have failed to supply documents for disclosure.

Any other organisation might respond cautiously to these setbacks, with an eye to restoring its public reputation. Stonewall, however, responded flippantly and unprofessionally.

Stonewall in Wales

Our Women’s Human Rights Campaign webinar presentation (which took place on Saturday 22nd of May, and will be posted on this site as soon as it’s available) outlined Stonewall’s position in Wales.

Speaking for LGB Alliance Cymru, Sarah Tanburn commented on Stonewall’s position as the only consulting body on equality and diversity that Welsh public bodies and organisations approach. She said that other groups are sidelined and excluded. She described Stonewall as using the Welsh Government as a vehicle to drive through its own policy and ideological goals. This involves the manipulation of public policy and the wholesale misrepresentation of the Equality Act, specifically in relation to the protected characteristics of ‘sex’ and ‘gender reassignment’.

In Scotland, Marion Calder has raised the issue of Stonewall’s cosy relationship with the Scottish Government. She warned that organisations following Stonewall’s advice ‘are potentially unlawfully discriminating against staff, especially women. At some point, they will face discrimination suits.’

We have the same concerns in Wales – but here, Stonewall largely sails above all criticism. The Welsh Government pays Stonewall over £150,000 per year, for training, consultancy and the fees to join Stonewall’s ‘Diversity Champion’ scheme. This leaves them liable to the same risks of unlawful discrimination against women.

Wales’ cabinet has a wealth of experience, and the political nous to review its decisions. It also has a responsibility to advance human rights and equalities through its own efforts. Outsourcing this responsibility to lobby groups means taking a risk – and in Stonewall’s case, this risk is becoming more and more clear.  This is why Merched Cymru believes that Wales’ close relationship with Stonewall needs to be re-evaluated.