Not a fair deal for women – the Lib Dem manifesto

Lib Dem policies would redefine sex to mean feeling masculine or feminine

The Liberal Democrats released their general-election manifesto today, subtitled “For a Fair Deal”. But its pledges on rights and equality would offer anything but a fair deal for women.

The Lib Dems want to make it even easier for men to get government-issued certificates declaring themselves to be women. That would be disastrous for women’s rights. This pledge is based on the fringe ideological belief that being male or female comes down to feeling masculine or feminine – that “women” are bundles of regressive stereotypes rather than living, breathing human beings.

This policy amounts to legal gender self-ID. It would make it harder to provide single-sex services for women, or to ensure that other public policies protect women’s privacy, dignity and safety, and more generally that they serve women’s needs.

The party promises to ensure that women and girls who are survivors of violence get the support they need. But that promise is incompatible with making it even easier for men to get legal certificates declaring themselves to be women. It also says it would tackle economic barriers facing women. But instead of tackling pay inequalities between men and women, it would require large employers to monitor and publish data on “gender”, not sex. 

Granting legal recognition to “non-binary” identities, which have no basis in material reality, is about as sensible as granting legal status to star signs. It would drive a coach and horses through decades of legal provisions to protect women’s rights, which are based on recognising that everyone is either male or female. 

Also in the manifesto is a pledge to remove what is referred to as the “spousal veto”. The legal provision this refers to is in fact a protection for spouses whose partners apply for gender-recognition certificates. It requires applicants to inform their spouse about their intentions, thus giving them the chance to decide whether to stay in a marriage that has changed legal status (from opposite-sex to same-sex, or vice versa) or instead apply for an annulment or divorce. Taking away this safeguard would mean that wives whose husbands declare themselves to be women could find themselves in a “lesbian marriage” without their consent, and potentially without even receiving notice that the state is about to rubber-stamp their husbands’ fantasy. This is a heartless policy that overlooks the interests of family members of people who seek legal transition. 

The Lib Dems promise to “improve equality, diversity and inclusion in sport” via support and campaigns. But in reality the legal changes proposed would make it impossible to protect or promote women’s sports. 

If implemented, this manifesto would be a big step backwards for women’s rights.

Sex Matters will be assessing the various parties’ manifestos as they are published in the coming days. 

Take action now – write to your local candidates to ask if they will stand up for single-sex services