Policy-making in Wales: Evidence-free, anti-democratic, and misogynist

Today Hannah Blythyn, the Deputy Minister for Social Partnership, gave an update on the Welsh Government’s LGBTQ+ Action Plan.

The responses to the consultation have not yet been published – possibly because many were critical of the way in which the Plan undermined the sex-based rights of women and girls – but Welsh Government are pushing ahead regardless.

Our concerns are many and serious.

The Deputy Minister reaffirms her commitment to extending rights for trans people but without being specific about what rights trans people currently lack. Given Welsh Government’s determination to prioritise ‘inclusion’ above all else – above the safety and dignity of women and girls, above fairness and opportunity – we suspect that the rights they are claiming will be be at the expense of women.

Hannah Blythyn’s assertion that:

Extending rights for one group does not mean eroding rights from another. We do not believe improving rights for trans women will damage rights for cisgender women and girls

does not reassure us. She might not believe it; evidence from across the world, says otherwise. We assume that she is ignorant of the facts rather than duplicitous – although neither state is acceptable. Certainly the Deputy Minister, and the wider Welsh Government have consistently refused to listen to women’s or lesbians’ groups, or to international experts, about the profound implications for women’s rights and existing legal protections if men are redefined as women.

The Deputy Minister also told us to expect new guidance on trans inclusion for schools, to be used alongside the new RSE curriculum (those consultation responses have not been published either – a pattern seems to be emerging here). It is not clear who is writing the guidance but, given the influence of Stonewall and their allies at the heart of Welsh Government, it is very likely that ideology rather than evidence will lead the way, to the detriment of all pupils, including those who are struggling with gender issues.

More worrying, particularly given Mark Drakeford’s recent dismissal of the Cass Interim Review as ‘for NHS England’ and his extraordinary suggestion that a ’broader base of evidence’ exists in Wales, the Deputy Minister insists that ‘We are also committed to improving the pathway for transgender young people in Wales.’ A government that insists on basing its approach to a serious mental health issue on Stonewall’s ‘affirmation-only’ model, puts children in Wales at grave risk of harm.

Then there’s women’s sport. Recent developments in the UK and internationally have supported the right of women and girls to female-only sports. Wales is taking a different view.

It appears that many of our Senedd members believe that women (and an increasing number of official sporting bodies) who object to male people competing in female categories are only doing so because they’re ‘transphobic’.

Here’s Sioned Williams MS, who intervened in the debate to share her (evidence-free) beliefs:

I also believe that trans women are women and that the way that trans women are being excluded by sporting bodies, whether you agree with it as a method of ensuring fairness or not, is emboldening those who are using sport as a cover for their transphobia and prejudice.

Rather than dismissing this ludicrous assertion, the Deputy Minister assured her that she will be talking to sporting bodies in Wales about the issue. Presumably to ‘persuade’ them to ignore the science, the evidence, and the biological reality, and to insist on inclusion over fairness. Certainly it’s not possible to have both.

Ms Blythyn also explained that she had met transwoman Emily Bridges at a Pink News reception and has invited Bridges to address the Senedd on issues of trans inclusion in sport. As far as we are aware, the Deputy Minister has not extended an invitation to any of the outstanding researchers and women athletes who have campaigned on this issue on the basis of facts and hard evidence. Or on the rights of women and girls to female-only sports.

The Deputy Minister appears unwilling to speak to us, or to LGB Alliance Cymru, or to Women’s Rights Network Wales, or to Labour Women’s Declaration Cymru. Our Government has also ignored offers from Fair Play for Women, Lesbian Labour, Transgender Trend, Society for Evidence-based Gender Medicine, Thoughtful Therapists, LGB Alliance, Safe Schools Alliance, and numerous individuals.

We know that she, and the Welsh Government, are determined to only listen to one side of the argument but, even so, it’s hard to credit that our government is so short-sighted as to ignore the growing weight of evidence against its ideological position. Not only for sports – although this is the most obvious area – but also for child safeguarding and women’s legal protections.

Welsh Government is a real and present danger to women’s sex-based rights, and to the health, well-being and safety of children and young people in Wales.