C: Olia Nayda via Unsplash

NI: Aontú only nationalist party to oppose men sharing changing rooms with teen girls 

All of the main non-unionist parties in Northern Ireland, bar Aontú, have failed to respond to questions from women’s rights campaigners regarding whether biological men dressed as women should be allowed to use communal changing rooms with teenage girls.

With one week to go until the North goes to the polls for the Assembly on Thursday 5th May, the question was put to every Assembly election candidate by Standing For Women Northern Ireland (SFWNI), one of two feminist groups that have tackled politicians over their stance on women-only spaces.

A survey from SFWNI asked candidates whether they would say Yes, No or Didn’t Care To Answer the question ‘should those who identify with women even if they have male genitalia have the right to use young female’s changing facilities’.

The Newsletter today reported that they had seen the tabulated results of the survey in which Sinn Fein, the SDLP, the Greens, the Alliance party, People Before Profit and other left-wing parties answered ‘Didn’t Care to Answer’.

New republican party Aontú, which hopes to elect its first MLAs in the upcoming election, was the only nationalist party to answer ‘No’ to the question. Individual DUP, TUV and UUP candidates, alongside a number of independents, also said ‘No’.

Speaking to the BBC’s Stephen Nolan about the SDLP’s response to the survey, SDLP Assembly candidate for South Belfast, Matthew O’Toole, said that it “should not be unthinkable” for a trans person to make use of gender neutral toilets or changing rooms.

“I don’t think that’s something that should be ruled out because this is about properly esteeming people and acknowledging their gender,” he said.

When asked what his definition of a woman was, Mr O’Toole said: “I have no problem saying that trans women are women and they should be properly acknowledged as such.”

Responding to the results of the survey, a spokeswoman for SFWNI said:

“Many of our members have expressed the view that they feel politically homeless. This election is not about orange or green issues – it is about the sex-based rights and protection of women.

“Women are uniting across divides (as they do), to protect our sex-based rights to privacy, dignity, safety and language.

“Why is it that our political representatives who stood in Stormont only weeks ago and gave apologies to survivors of historical institutional abuse for failing them, are now not listening to women when we speak up against safeguarding concerns and the medicalisation of children.”

The spokeswoman for SFWNI added:

“Our questions to politicians have been dismissed as ‘bad faith’ by some prominent representatives and party leaders…the dismissal is bad faith. Suggesting that a straightforward question about adult males in underage female spaces is complex-to-answer is bad faith.”

The survey was released as a separate feminist group, Women’s Rights Network Northern Ireland, this week erected a billboard between the M2 and M3 motorways in Belfast asking would-be MLAs: ‘Dear MLA candidates, What is a Woman? Respect my SeX’.

The group’s billboards are part of a UK-wide campaign to challenge political candidates both in the NI and GB elections to answer a more detailed list of questions including, “Should schools have separate toilets for male and female students?” or “Is it ok for males to compete in female sports?”

The Newsletter reports that while no local party headquarters gave a response to those questions, individual DUP and TUV candidates did reply ‘No’.

A spokeswoman for WRNNI said: “We are tired of seeing our political representatives stuttering and stumbling over this very simple question, especially when the answer affects 51% of the population. 

“The word woman is not up for debate – it means adult human female.”

TUV candidate for Lagan Valley Lorna Smyth said her party is clear that a woman is “an adult female and her sex is determined at birth. It is important and it is immutable.”

She also said: “It is disturbing that some want to live in a society where biological reality is ignored. If one were to have said a few years ago that the issue of what a woman is would become an election issue I have no doubt that people would have reacted with bemusement.”

Aontú’s stand-alone nationalist opposition to males being allowed into female only spaces follows the party’s criticism of the SDLP’s period poverty bill for its exclusion of the word ‘woman’ in November.

“The SDLP’s 12-page Period Products (free provision) Bill doesn’t contain any of the following words: woman, girl, girls, women,” the new republican movement said.

Share mdi-share-variant mdi-twitter mdi-facebook mdi-whatsapp mdi-telegram mdi-linkedin mdi-email mdi-printer mdi-chevron-left Prev Next mdi-chevron-right Related
Comments are open

The biggest problem Ireland faces right now is:

View Results

Loading ... Loading ...