A few questions, Prime Minister

Prime Minister Ardern at the second Leader’s Debate

Which human rights count, Prime Minister?

You stood on the debating stage and shrugged as you dismissed rights enshrined in our Human Rights Act.

Whose comfort counts, Prime Minister?

You said everyone should use the bathroom they are comfortable in, but what happens when one person’s comfort creates discomfort for those who sex-segregation is meant to protect?

Why do you think we have sex-segregated toilets, Prime Minister?

You can find the short answer in Section 43 of our Human Rights Act — public decency and public safety.[1] Historically, there were no facilities for women and girls. The public space was the male space and what they called the ‘urinary leash’ kept women close to home. Hard work and campaigning by women brought about first the provision of women’s toilets and then laws and policies to ensure that we were always provided.

In developing countries, aid agencies prioritise the building of separate toilets for women and girls. It is one of the first actions they take. Why? Because the availability of safe and sex-segregated toilets markedly improves their quality of life. They reduce rape, sexual assaults, health issues associated with ‘holding on’ too long, and much greater attendance at school.[2]

Whose education matters, Prime Minister?

“Separate toilets at school, for example, mean more girls are likely to attend in the first place, and more girls are likely to stay after puberty to complete their education.”

This quote comes from the website of the Office of the High Commissioner of Human Rights at the United Nations.[3] Does the ‘comfort’, as you termed it, of some override the need to ensure that girls have the same educational opportunities as boys? There is evidence — evidence used by the United Nations — that a lack of access to sex-segregated toilets reduces attendance in girls. Is there any excuse for dismissing this?

The New Zealand Herald reported last year on how the introduction of mixed sex toilets and self-identification policies are impacting girls in other parts of the Western world:

“Girls who are menstruating are so anxious about sharing facilities with boys that some are staying at home for fear of being made to feel ‘period shame’.

With a growing number of both primary and secondary schools installing unisex toilets, some girls are risking infections by refusing to urinate all day.

Others are so fearful they have stopped drinking liquids at school…”[4]

Should women feel safe at work, Prime Minister?

Radio New Zealand reported less than a year ago that women in male-dominated industries were dehydrating themselves or relieving themselves behind bushes due to a lack of female toilets. The Rail and Maritime Transport Union (RMTU) called the expectation that female employees should use the same facilities as male employees “unacceptable”.[5] Would you shrug at these women? Whose comfort matters, Prime Minister?

A small comment like yours dissolves the rights of girls to female toilets and then it becomes a domino knocking down the rights of women to female toilets at work, which in turn becomes another domino that knocks down the rights of women to other single sex facilities and spaces, and so on.[6]

Do you think all men are predators, Prime Minister?

We have sex-segregated facilities not because all men are a danger to women and girls. We unfortunately have to make these provisions because some men are. I know without a shadow of a doubt that any woman would be safe sharing a facility with my father, but that does not negate the need for him to be excluded from female spaces. If my father were to enter a women’s toilet the women there would not know, even though I do, that he is no danger to them. And we can’t simply let my father use women’s toilets because I say he is harmless; how would we decide which men get access and which do not?

Men who seek to assault and victimise women are already finding ways to gain access to women’s spaces. Voyeuristic crimes through hidden cameras and covert filming are skyrocketing.[7] Now is not the time to be dismantling safeguards and making it easier for these men.

How much risk is acceptable to you, Prime Minister?

No doubt you have all the best intentions and are thinking of ordinary transgender people who have no nefarious intent. This is not fear of transwomen because they are transgender rather it is necessary to retain segregation by sex because transwomen are no less dangerous than other males. Research shows that transwomen are 6 times more like to commit any crime, and 18 times more likely to commit a violent crime than females are. This simply puts them about in line with the general male population averages.[8]

Transitioning does not remove the risk males present to females. While this information may be upsetting to those who wish to obscure the differences between women and transwomen, it is reality and if the risk is not acceptable prior to transition, why should it be afterwards?

Do you think this policy won’t be abused, Prime Minister?

Presenting more of a risk, are the men who have no desire to transition, but will happily use the ruse to access female spaces. Sadly, we only need to look at the sheer number of child abusers who used positions of power in the Catholic church to access victims to know that people — overwhelmingly men — will go to great lengths to satisfy their criminal aims. Whether they choose to be priests, sports coaches, or carers, men are happy to play a role in service of their desires.

We are seeing this increasingly happen when it comes to pretending to be transgender in order to gain access to women. Karen White, who identified as transgender in order to be moved to a female prison is a horrifying example of this. Described as “a danger to women and children”, White was nonetheless transferred to a women’s prison where he sexually assaulted female inmates.[9]

There are countless examples of the abuse of self-identification and simple cross-dressing by predatory males carrying out criminal activities usually against women or children.[10] They are usually not transgender; they are men abusing the lack of safeguards.[11]

Have you done any risk assessments, Prime Minister?

Before you decided to advocate for the dismantling of protections outlined in our Human Rights Act it would have been responsible to assess the impacts and risks of such a move. You are effectively arguing that all toilets should be unisex as they could be accessed by either sex simply by declaration. It may seem like a straightforward and simple solution to just encourage the trend for “gender neutral” toilets, but this in itself endangers women:

“Almost 90% of reported sexual assaults, harassment and voyeurism in swimming pool and sports-centre changing rooms happen in unisex facilities, which make up less than half the total [facilities].”[12]

Do you think our Human Rights Act is wrong, Prime Minister?

You and your government are advocating for the rights of women and girls to sex-segregated toilet facilities to be ignored. Is this legal, given it is what is in existing law? If you think the law is wrong then should you not seek to update it through the proper channels so it can be scrutinised in parliament and women like myself can fight you every step of the way? How can you just decide that a law no longer suits you or your agenda and decide to stop applying it? What other human rights can we expect you to decide to ignore in practice next?

Do you know what a woman is, Prime Minister?

Of course you do. Our sex is our biology and gender is sociology. Despite all the gendered stereotypes and expectations, there are an infinite number of different ‘types’ of women and all we have in common is our sex.

Are you willing to talk to us, Prime Minister?

We are entitled to hear from you the answers to these questions. If our rights are to be ignored, we should receive some reasoning.

Whose comfort matters, Prime Minister?

Gender-critical lesbian radical feminist. Support me https://www.patreon.com/aniobrien

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