A new Bill to add “gender identity or expression” as prohibited grounds for discrimination will harm women’s sex-based rights, currently protected in the Human Rights Act 1993, the Women’s Rights Party says.

The Human Rights (Prohibition of Discrimination on Grounds of Gender Identity or Expression, and Variations of Sex Characteristics) Amendment Bill, a private member’s Bill of departing Green MP Elizabeth Kerekere, passed its first reading last week.

Women’s Rights Party National Secretary and Co-leader Jill Ovens says women’s rights are based on the fact that a woman is an adult human female, not a gender identity or expression.

“Women’s sex-based rights are not only protected in New Zealand law, they are recognised by the United Nations Convention on the Elimination of all forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW), to which New Zealand is a signatory,” Ms Ovens says.

The Women’s Rights Party says women and girls’ sex-based rights as biological females need to be protected in policy and law and this should be given preference over any proposed provisions based on contested concepts of ‘gender’.

“We are particularly concerned about our right to speak freely, our right to safe single-sex spaces for women and girls such as toilets or changing sheds, and our right to use clear and plain language when referring to ourselves. We are not ‘birthing people’ or ‘menstruators’.”

Ms Ovens says being a woman is not an identity that we express by conforming to sexual stereotypes. It is not a ‘feeling’; being a woman is a biological fact.

The Women’s Rights Party says that if “gender identity” and “gender expression” are added to the Human Rights Act (HRA), men who identify as women are likely to believe that they have the right to enter all women’s spaces, no matter how private these spaces are, and no matter how vulnerable the women and girls may be.

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Furthermore, women will have no rights to protest about this.

“Putting gender identity and gender expression into the HRA would open the door for these grounds to be included into future ‘hate speech’ laws. This could make it illegal for women to speak about and protect our rights,” Ms Ovens says.

The Women’s Rights Party is not reassured by the fact that “sex” would still be in the HRA. Currently “sex” is identified in the Act as one of the prohibited grounds for discrimination, including in pregnancy and childbirth.

There are also several exceptions in the Act providing for the provision of separate facilities or services for each sex on the grounds of public decency or public safety, for example, and for the exclusion of one sex from participation in competitive sport where strength, stamina or physique of competitors is relevant.

“Introducing concepts based on ‘gender’ into the HRA will undermine these protections based on biological sex, and create a clash of rights within the same law.

“For example, what are employers expected to do if women workers object to having men in their changing rooms, but those men claim they have rights because they identify as women?

“Or similarly, how will schools react if girls object to having boys who identify as girls in their changing sheds at the swiming pool? Whose rights are paramount – those of the girls or the boys?”

The Women’s Rights Party says “gender is an imprecise concept that refers to sex-based stereotypes and social expectations, such as what is considered feminine and masculine. Gender identity and expression refer to the identification with, and expression of these stereotypes.”

“Women and children should be able to reject socially constructed stereotypes without discrimination, labelling, or medical intervention to ‘fix’ them,” Ms Ovens says.

“Such stereotypes particularly harm adolescents who are exploring and questioning their sexuality, who may be gay or lesbian, and has nothing to do with fantasies of being “born in the wrong body’.”

According to the Women’s Declaration International: “The concept of ‘gender identity’ makes stereotypes, which organise and maintain women’s inequality, into essential and innate conditions, thereby undermining women’s sex-based rights.”

Ms Ovens says gender ideology is essentially misogynist because it reinforces outdated sexual stereotypes that perpetuate women’s oppression.

The Women’s Rights Party says the addition of the terms “sex characteristics”, “secondary sex characteristics “ and “variations of sex charactaristics” in the Bill do not add anything useful to the Human Rights Act.

“Sex” is already a category in the Human Rights Act. If the intent of the Bill is to protect people with differences in sex development (commonly known as “intersex”), that should be made more explicit. Differences in sex development (DSD) is a group of rare conditions involving genes, hormones and reproductive organs, including genitals.

“We are concerned that including ‘variations of sex characteristics’ in the Bill conflates sex and gender, and implies, for example, that medicalised changes are really changes of sex. This is not the case.”

The Women’s Rights Party agrees that people who identify as the opposite sex have a right to their belief in ‘gender’, and to express it through clothing, mannerisms, use of preferred pronouns or name to describe themselves, and so on, but they do not have the right to demand that others agree with that belief.

“This is similar to religious or ethnic beliefs, already covered by the Human Rights Act.”

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