Bristol SU sanctions feminist society after barring trans woman from event

The head of the society, Women Talk Back, is banned for two years from holding a leadership position


CW: This article mentions sensitive topics, such as sexual assault and discrimination

A Bristol Uni feminist society, Women Talk Back, has been sanctioned by Bristol SU after barring a transgender women from attending female-only events, including talks and debates about rape and sexual violence.

Following a complaint submitted by a student, Bristol SU has ordered the society’s president, PhD student Raquel Rosario-Sanchez, to step down from her role, and has banned her from SU leadership positions for the next two years. The entire committee must also complete an “equality, diversity and inclusion” course.

According to the SU, the society has appealed against the decision, and therefore this will now go through the SU’s appeals process. The group has also written to Gavin Williamson, the Secretary of State for Education, The Telegraph reports.

Last year a trans woman was reportedly shut out from a group meeting on “women’s boundaries” in law, culture and society, which resulted in a formal complaint to the SU being filed.

The definition of “women” in Bristol SU’s bylaws means anyone whose gender identity includes female.

Rosario-Sanchez, 30, told The Telegraph: “Women have a right to single-sex spaces when we are talking about sensitive matters. We want to use that law so any woman can have a space to talk and be respected and believed.

“There is this climate where people think they have a right to censor and silence the free speech of others. It’s happening to us and so many students, but universities are becoming weaker and weaker.”

Rosario-Sanchez cited the Equality Act 2010 which cites biological gender as a protected characteristic. Peter Daly, a discrimination lawyer at Doyle Clayton, told The Telegraph that gender identity is not a protected characteristic in law.

According to a 2018 report by Stonewall, 42 per cent of LGBTQ+ students have hidden their identity at university for fear of discrimination.

A Bristol SU spokesperson said: “The definition of ‘women’ in the Bristol SU bylaws is ‘All who self define as women, including (if they wish) those with complex gender identities that include ‘woman’, and those who experience oppression as women.

“Bristol SU investigated the conduct of one of our affiliated groups – The Women Talk Back Society following a complaint on their decision not to allow a trans student into one of their events.

“The behaviour was found to be in breach of the Bristol SU Code of Conduct, and the complaints panel decided that it is appropriate to apply sanctions to the group.”

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