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Letter by Lesley Jagger, Braes, Isle of Skye

Women’s Rights Are Important to Alba

Recently I took part in the new ALBA Party’s Women’s Conference. 413 women attended online which was quite something and would have looked amazing if we’d all been able to be together in a space that wasn’t virtual! It was positive, uplifting and full of an energy I hadn’t felt since the 2014 referendum campaign.

The Party has some of the strongest feminist voices from all over Scotland and eighteen great women candidates with a breadth of expertise. Their first policy ‘Women and Equalities’ sets out a positive policy of rights whilst respecting equality for all and shows women’s rights are important to ALBA.

Women’s rights are under threat right now in Scotland, an example being concerns regarding the protection of single sex spaces. ALBA is currently the only pro-independence party standing in the upcoming election who I feel are genuinely committed to discussing women’s rights; as well as the protection of civil liberties and freedom of speech more generally.

I have been a campaigner for women’s rights the majority of my life, with my early years training and meeting with Scotland’s best anti-violence against women’s groups. In more recent times I worked for Ross-shire Women’s Aid a domestic abuse charity and I worked here in Skye & Lochalsh for eleven years providing support to women, children and young people. One of the most important services we were proud to provide was advocating for and securing safe accommodation for women and children.

So, what has happened to our country when the government is seen to cherry pick and hold to ransom organisations such as Women’s Aid when it comes to the allocation of and applying for Violence Against Women and Girls funding streams? Well it is rooted in this:

These organisations have always relied on the single sex exceptions (Schedule 3, Part 7, 26-28) and the genuine occupational requirements (Schedule 9, Part 1, 1) in the Equality Act 2010 which allows for the exclusion of all men if it can be objectively justified, this also excludes trans women with or without a Gender Recognition Certificate (GRA). It is important to stress that Scottish Women’s Aid have acknowledged they have little experience of providing trans women services (ref For Women Scotland).

There is currently a national epidemic of violence, with women murdered by intimate male partners at a rate of one every three days in the UK and I read recently that demand for women’s abuse support services rose by 83% in the 10 years up to 2017 (ref For Women Scotland).

Domestic abuse units and sexual assault counselling services are examples of legitimate uses of single sex exceptions. Organisations such as Women’s Aid have traditionally been proud to run a service by women for women given the traumas experienced. As such it is very alarming to hear some organisations are feeling unable to apply for essential funding if they wish to remain women only; and now find themselves under pressure to relinquish their rights to use an important piece of legislation which safeguards our women and children. Without funding they cease to exist this would be incomprehensible.

Women of Scotland deserve better. Children and young people deserve better. Organisations who support women deserve better. They should not be under attack for their legitimate right to have and access protected single sex spaces. Women of ALBA respect this. Please consider giving the ALBA Party your second vote (your list vote), if you care about safeguarding women, children and young people of Scotland.

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