Opinion: Suzanne Levy, November 6th, 2022
With Freedom of Speech back on the table this week and with much discussion about exactly what is and what isn’t “Hate Speech”, it’s an opportune time to remind our friends and foes of where Speak Up for Women (SUFW) stand when it comes to freedom of speech and expression, and of how we see any new legislation affecting our ability to continue to campaign for the rights and language of women and girls.
In short, we support freedom of speech. While we are nonpartisan, we do support a democracy that allows freedom of speech, expression and thought. (click here for information on our principles).
While we do not know what changes are proposed, we do know that the changes are unlikely to silence us for our gender critical views. As in the UK with the Maya Forstater Employment Appeal Tribunal case, gender critical views have been tested here in New Zealand and have made the grade.
SUFW formed in 2018 in opposition to the government’s sex self-ID proposals in the Births, Deaths, Marriages and Relationships Registration Bill. SUFW believed then, as it does now, that sex self-ID will have significant implications for women and girls, particularly in relation to their rights to single sex spaces, e.g. changing rooms, hostels, prisons, services and sports.
In 2018 SUFW argued that there was inadequate public consultation, and the that Bill risked unintended consequences for women’s sex-based rights. This position was ultimately accepted by the former Minister for Department of Internal Affairs, Tracey Martin.
After she took legal advice, the proposal was withdrawn.
In 2020 the Bill was reintroduced by the current Minister for Department of Internal Affairs, Jan Tinetti. In June 2021 SUFW was attempting to hold public meetings around New Zealand to discuss the (at that stage) proposed changes relating to sex self-ID. We were called transphobic, we were described as a hate group.
SUFW had venue bookings refused, initially by the Christchurch City Council and later by the Palmerston North City Council (PNCC).
The PNCC refusal to allow a booking of a public venue resulted in a hearing in the Auckland High Court, the full ruling is here.
Part of our submission was an explanation of our gender critical views:
“Broadly speaking, SUFW takes what has become known as a “gender critical” feminist position: that a person’s sex is a material reality that does not change.
Sex is distinct from gender and has a social and physical significance that cannot be ignored. If the word “woman” is taken to include any man identifying as a woman, the definitions of “woman” and “man” lose meaning, and women lose the ability to organise as a distinct group, and to describe and record their experiences of being female and of sexism and sex discrimination.”
Daphna Whitmore, Speak Up for Women, The High Court of New Zealand, June 24 2021
SUFW was successful and the PNCC event was able to go ahead without incident, but more importantly the Judge made it clear that we are not a hate group:
“There is sufficient evidence before me at this stage to be clear that SUFW cannot rationally be described as a “hate group” in the sense that term can be relevant in making decisions about the extent to which a particular group should be allowed to exercise its rights of free speech and freedom of assembly.”
Justice Gerald Nation, The High Court of New Zealand Judgement, June 25 2021
So we will continue to say that Sex Matters.
We will continue to say that men cannot become women.
We will continue to fight to keep our language, our rights and our female reality.
And in the words of the wonderful Magdalen Berns, “It's not hate to defend your rights and it's not hate to speak the truth”.