Keep “people who aren’t women” out of women's refuges.

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Dear Katie Ghose, Jan Melia, Eleri Butler and Marsha Scott (The CEOs of Women's Aid)

Your current policies for your federation refuges vary but they do allow access for those who self-identify as women. Recent examples of women leaving refuges because they are being asked to share them with those who aren’t women identifying as women mean that we need to ask this of you.

Women need you to stand up and declare that your refuges are only for the safety and recovery of women who are victims of domestic violence. 

There is no shame in saying that you prioritise only women. It is essential that women are able to escape the men who have hurt them. It is vital that once they have taken that brave and phenomenally difficult step that they are housed in a women-only facility and cared for by women in an environment free of men.

Women have been terrorised by men before they arrive at a refuge in the most horrific of ways. They need to be away from male bodies and male voices and actions. All traumatised women can recognise a man and are acutely aware of his presence. That presence will always be a terror for them whether the man is a direct threat to them or not. Women deserve this brief recovery period in an environment with other women only. 

The debate about what a woman is has escalated quickly. There is no need for debate. The definition of "woman" as Adult Human Female is the only definition with a factual, evidential basis. It is currently being shown as controversial. It is not.

The movement that our radical feminist sisters built and that you now herald did not build it to accommodate men. They would be horrified at the current betrayal of women taking place on the doorsteps of refuges which allow those "identifying as" women access. Our sisters did not fight men away physically from their doors in the seventies so that you could allow them in.

Women's refuges should be one of the few key remaining places where the definition of "woman" is not up for debate.

It should not and does not include those who are non-binary, trans women, gender fluid, pan gender etc etc. Allowing any of those who "identify as" women - - into women's refuges makes a mockery of the entire movement which was set up for women to escape male violence. 

The Equality Act 2010 specifically allows Women's Aid and others providing women's services to be able to ensure that they can exclude all those who are not adult human females from a refuge space. This exemption is provided at Schedule 3, Part 7 for single sex services. This is a specific legal protection in the Equality Act which was designed so that refuges and similar services can legitimately exclude those who identify as women so that women only are given the single sex space so essential to their recovery. Why are you ignoring a safety protection for women. Why are you sacrificing the rights women struggled for so very hard for centuries? Why aren't you using the legislative gifts that you were given? 

If Women's Aid do not utilise legislation designed to provide for women's safety, privacy and dignity as is their right, then you are betraying women in an unforgivable way.

It is not a cruelty to prioritise the needs of women. Women are the ones who are dying as you well know. You are involved in the Femicide census. You know that 598 women died at the hands of male current or former partners or family members between 2009-2015. You also know that no trans woman died in that time in the same way. Women are the ones at risk of homicide. This movement built refuge for women. Refuge has meaning. Woman has meaning. Stand up for women. 

Do not give away our rights. Declare that your refuges are for women and that woman is defined as Adult Human Female. 

If you don't stand up for women.... who will? Grow brave. Grow strong. Remember whose shoulders you stand on. Remember your roots. Remember the women who built you and the women who trusted you. 

Women are watching. Please do not let us down. 

Jean Hatchet.