A Women’s Manifesto is needed NOW

@womenspeakscot1 on why protecting and upholding women’s human and legal rights has become an imperative

Women Speak Scotland was set up in June 2020 by a diverse group of women in Scotland in response to the abuse heaped on J. K. Rowling.

The author had publicly acknowledged the existence of biological sex and expressed her viewpoint that this fact is important and forms the basis of many women’s experiences of their lives.

Like J. K. Rowling, we recognise the life-long impact that being born female can have on women’s experiences, opportunities and relationships.

Unfortunately, we live in strange times where women who make it clear that the rights and protections afforded to us should continue to be based on the objective reality of sex are treated as heretics worthy of slurs, physical and sexual threats, and even aggressive attempts to disrupt employment and professional standing.

Rights and protections eroded

We have seen how our rights and protections have been steadily eroded or even dismissed by organisations and public bodies over the past few years ­– institutions that one would have trusted and expected to uphold equality laws.

Even many well-established and well-funded women’s organisations have been ignoring women’s concerns and complaints – some even branding us as bigots for questioning certain policies and ideas.

Since women can no longer rely on public institutions or even the Scottish Government to uphold our rights, and so many of us feel politically homeless, we decided to take a proactive approach and publish our own manifesto.

A Manifesto for Women’s Rights in Scotland was released on International Women’s Day (8 March) this year in anticipation of the Holyrood election on 6 May.

It demands the protection and implementation of women’s human and legal rights by the Scottish Government, regardless of which party/parties form the next administration.

A clear, consistent message

It was tough trying to distil all our concerns and demands into seven main points. We wanted women to feel able to support the Manifesto, irrespective of their political views or party allegiances, and to feel confident in engaging in conversation with election candidates using a clear, consistent message.

We are delighted by the responses ­– women and the men who support them have been contacting candidates with their concerns and questions; slates and posters about the Manifesto have been appearing in various outdoor locations; while the clever and artistic political demonstration of #WomenVotingWithOurFeet have endorsed our work.

It is clear that women refuse to be silenced, legislated out of existence or reduced to descriptions of our bodily parts or functions. Women have the need and the right to talk about our bodies and our experiences of being adult human females.

Making our voices heard

We reject the notion that women’s rights and protections must inevitably be sacrificed to accommodate any other group.

We demand the ability to conduct free and respectful discussions of women’s rights, whether in academic institutions, political circles, on social media or in organisations.

We absolutely oppose the no-platforming, abuse and harassment of women who speak out for our rights.

The Manifesto serves as a reminder to candidates and their parties that women are more than half of the population and we will make our voices heard – especially at the ballot box.

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