Is Amnesty UK excluding transsexual women from its “1 in 10” campaign?

March 2, 2009

Amnesty International logoAmnesty UK are running the following campaign at PledgeBank:

I will change my Facebook status, Myspace headline and tweet the message : “Each year, 1 in 10 women in Britain experience rape or other violence – http://www.oneten.org.uk” but only if 5,000 other people will do the same.

Earlier today @AmnestyUK posted this message at Twitter:

Sign our pledge & donate your profile pic. Help the 1 in 10 women facing violence in Britain a year http://bitly.com/WUnHK

I Tweeted @AmnestyUK and asked:

Is that 1:10 statistic just for cis women, or does it include trans women too?

This was @AmnestyUK’s reply:

I believe it doesn’t include trans women, but will double-check and let you know. Full report: http://bitly.com/hmRXG

The link is to the Map of Gaps website – “a unique campaign by the Equality and Human Rights Commission and the End Violence Against Women coalition which maps services for women who have experienced violence”. The site is silent about whether transsexual women are included in the research.

Four hours later and @AmnestyUK hadn’t replied. I Tweeted them again:

Disappointed you’re unable to confirm if trans women are included in your 1:10 campaign/report. Can only assume we’re not.

@AmnestyUK responded with two direct messages in quick succession, saying that the campaigns team had still not responded, and that the Map of Gaps report only relates to services for cis women.

And so, I wait to see if Amnesty UK’s “1 in 10” campaign includes transsexual women. But on the basis of this exchange so far, I can’t say I’m terribly optimistic.

My thoughts are now turning to the question of whether I can support an organisation which claims to be “taking action together for human rights” at the same time as it seems to be contributing to the erasure and invisibilisation of transsexual women in the critical area of violence against us.

————

ETA: @AmnestyUK has been back in touch and tells me that the coalition behind the Map of Gaps obtains its statistics from government crime surveys, which “only break down by gender” – in other words, they also assume that the default meaning of the word “woman” is “cis woman”.

I don’t know why this makes me feel so down – I can’t honestly say I wasn’t expecting something like that, after all.

Perhaps I was simply naive to expect an organisation purporting to work for human rights to care about the inclusivity of transsexual women in its work, ditto a government which would have us believe it’s committed to equality.

…*le sigh*…

crawls back beneath stone

8 Responses to “Is Amnesty UK excluding transsexual women from its “1 in 10” campaign?”

  1. queerunity Says:

    It is particularly troubling that Amnesty of all orgs isn’t fighting for everyones rights. Please keep us updated.

  2. Laura Says:

    That’s really out of order. I didn’t realise the map of gaps was only for cis women’s services either. Keep us updated.

  3. Helen G Says:

    Laura: It’s interesting the website doesn’t seem to attribute the 1:10 statistic to any source. And I’m told that Map of Gaps is based on surveying services that work specifically on VAW, which – if it really is only including data on cis women – makes matters even worse.

    The idea – and it’s not limited to this particular campaign by any stretch of the imagination – but the idea that the term “women” defaults to meaning “cis women” is as pervasive as it’s iniquitous and invidious.

    I begin to despair that transphobic violence will ever be taken seriously by anyone outside the trans community.

  4. Harriet R Says:

    The Crime surveys’ breakdown of gender doesn’t mean that when they refer to women they just mean cis-women does it? I’d have thought they’d have included all people who described themselves as female. In which case, isn’t that good? I might be very wrong of course, so please correct me if that’s not the case.

  5. Helen G Says:

    The Crime surveys’ breakdown of gender doesn’t mean that when they refer to women they just mean cis-women does it?

    That would seem to be AmnestyUK’s understanding, to judge by their message to me (“I believe it doesn’t include trans women”)

    I’d have thought they’d have included all people who described themselves as female.

    I suppose that depends on how the data were collected. If the format only allowed for either ‘M’ or ‘F’ then of course I would select ‘F’, because it’s closer than ‘M’ would be – but it’s making assumptions that I want to be identified as such. I wouldn’t be best pleased that that was my only option.

  6. depresso Says:

    Not sure if it’s much of a contribution, regarding the Map of Gaps, but I know for a fact that the Rape Crisis centre in Glasgow supports trans people. I have no idea if it’s specifically stated in the funding reports or whatever, or what the national official position is, but a trans person was beginning face to face support the last time I was there. On the ground, I really doubt that a support worker would turn someone away because of their gender identity, but it’s frustrating that, higher-up, Amnesty and most of the other organisations have a big trans-shaped blind spot.

  7. Helen G Says:

    depresso: Thank you for this information; it’s encouraging to hear of Glasgow Rape Crisis’ support for trans people.

    On the ground, I really doubt that a support worker would turn someone away because of their gender identity…

    Unfortunately, there is a notorious historical context where an organisation in fact refused to employ a trans woman support worker – and has been given the full approval of the judicial system, the gist of which may be worth briefly recapping:

    In 2002, the Vancouver Rape Relief Society denied a job to Kimberly Nixon as a rape counsellor because she is a transsexual woman, claiming that it was necessary for rape counsellors to be born as women. Ms Nixon – who subsequently sued VRR for discrimination – is a rape survivor, which is why she wanted to work as a rape counsellor.

    She had previously worked as a rape counsellor elsewhere, and the main reason she applied to VRR was because the shelter that she visited didn’t allow survivors they’d served to volunteer until 12 months had passed. Ms Nixon took her grievance to a Human Rights tribunal, and won, but the decision was overturned by the British Columbia Court of Appeal in 2003. And in 2007, the Supreme Court of Canada declined to hear an appeal from the decision of the British Columbia Court of Appeal.

    Effectively, the decision legitimised VRR’s “women only space” policy, which translates to meaning that only those who were born and raised female are allowed access. In my view, this is tantamount to holding trans women’s history against us – that something we have no control over is an ineradicable original sin which stains our lives forever.

    The other point perhaps worth remembering is that trans women are just as likely, and arguably more likely, to experience violence as cis women.

    Try as I might, I simply cannot understand how any organisation claiming to support human rights could find even one reason to exclude trans women from gaining access to women’s services, as either a survivor or a counsellor – or, in the case of Map of Gaps, the Equality and Human Rights Commission and the End Violence Against Women coalition – to exclude trans women from their research into “services for women who have experienced violence“.


  8. […] Helen on the fact that Amnesty’s 1 in 10 campaign fails to take violence against trans women into consideration. […]


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