Respect My Sex campaigners arrive in St Albans

Respect My Sex: Heather Binning of Women's Rights Network and Maya Forstater of Sex Matters.

The Respect My Sex campaign comes to St Albans with Heather Binning of Women's Rights Network and Maya Forstater of Sex Matters. - Credit: Respect My Sex

One of the most controversial and divisive political campaigns in living memory has come to St Albans.

The national momentum behind Respect My Sex has polarised opinions across the country, and the issue has now hit home in the cathedral city.

At the heart of the debate is the safety and privacy of women when it comes to female changing rooms, toilets and other single-sex spaces, and whether access should be granted to anyone who identifies as female.

On Saturday representatives from three organisations - Women’s Rights Network, Sex Matters and Women Uniting - set out a stall and handed out leaflets by the Clock Tower in Market Place.

The campaign has been highlighting the reluctance of politicians to address questions about sex, claiming that confusing sex and gender is undermining women’s hard-fought rights.

Activists have been encouraging voters to ask candidates in the upcoming local elections about sex-based rights such as the importance of single-sex sports and changing areas.

Maya Forstater of Sex Matters said: "So many people - women, men, parents, teachers - who have been afraid of speaking out about these issues for fear that they could lose their jobs came to talk to us. People are relieved that finally we can talk about these issues out in the open."

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A spokeswoman for Women Uniting said: ‘‘This cross-party mobilisation brings together thousands of women from all walks of life. Some of us have never been politically active before, whereas some of us have been engaged in politics for decades."

A St Albans Women’s Rights Network (WRN) spokeswoman said: “Women and men have been thanking the WRN and Maya for their work in raising this important issue. One young woman told us that 'for every one voice of abuse out there, know there are hundreds of people like me who agree with you but feel scared to speak out'.

"The way our Respect My Sex campaign has taken off nationally shows that politicians can no longer argue that this subject never comes up on the doorstep."

Heather Binning, one of the founders of the Women’s Rights Network and spokeswoman for Respect My Sex added: "We had a tremendous reception from the people of St Albans - there was not one voice against us. We noticed that there is an increasing number of locals - and also people from across the UK - who are aware not only that local elections are happening but they also know about the issues related to our campaign."

St Albans MP Daisy Cooper has responded to Respect My Sex: "For most people, their gender matches their physical sex at birth, but there is a relatively small number of people – up to 1% of the population – for whom that is not the case, and I believe we must respect their identities too.

"Liberal Democrats believe that individuals and service providers should be given more clarity over how to make decisions that are often very difficult and sensitive. The Government should publish clear and comprehensive guidance on the use of single-sex and separate-sex exceptions under the Act, using worked examples and case studies from organisations providing these services.

"This should be produced in consultation with those most likely to be affected, including women who have experienced sexual violence or domestic abuse, trans people and providers of single-sex services.

"For almost 20 years, we have had a system that allows trans people to have their affirmed gender recognised and respected in law, with safeguards to prevent abuse. So this isn’t a new concept, but unfortunately this is part of a wider debate that’s become far too toxic and hostile. We need to get past that, and have a good-faith conversation about ensuring everyone’s safety and dignity."