In upcoming Senedd elections in Wales, there are plans to change the law to ensure that transgender individuals are considered as part of the gender they identify with. The leaked draft legislation, which aims to create a more gender-balanced Welsh Parliament, has raised concerns.
The Women’s Rights Network (WRN) Wales, which obtained the draft legislation, has accused Welsh ministers of undermining the rights of women. The government’s proposal calls for half of the candidates in future Senedd elections to be women, and this group is upset that transgender women will be counted as female candidates.
Cathy Larkman, a representative from WRN Wales, expressed her frustration, saying, “It is shameful that they are hijacking legislation that should benefit women and increase female participation in political life, to embed a toxic and misogynistic ideology.”
The Welsh Government has acknowledged that the leaked version of the proposal has evolved, but they have not detailed the specific changes made.
The leaked draft bill defines women as candidates who have undergone gender reassignment, are currently in the process of transitioning, or are planning to do so. It also prevents returning officers from challenging candidates identifying as women. The draft bill allows ministers to amend the definition with Senedd approval.
Gender quotas were not initially part of the Senedd Cymru (Members and Elections) bill, which aims to increase the number of members from 60 to 96 and change the electoral system. The Senedd Cymru (Electoral Candidate Lists) bill is introduced separately due to concerns about the Senedd’s legal authority. It would require political parties to select an equal number of male and female candidates on their lists.
In a related context, the UK Government blocked Scotland’s Gender Reform bill from becoming law due to concerns about its implications for UK-wide equality legislation.
Welsh Secretary David TC Davies has expressed concerns about the draft bill, particularly its potential impact on women’s rights. He mentioned that women’s rights have been hard-won and could be undermined by the Welsh Government’s policy.
Mrs. Larkman believes that the Welsh Government lacks the legal authority to push through this legislation and is likely to face legal challenges. She emphasized the wastage of public funds and warned that women would mobilize to protect their rights.
Stonewall Cymru, an LGBTQ+ rights advocacy group, expressed full support for any measures empowering women, including trans women, to participate in politics.
Gender quotas were included in the 2021 cooperation agreement between the Labour-led Welsh Government and Plaid Cymru.
A Welsh Government spokesperson explained that they are working on a bill to make the Senedd more representative of the people it serves, including introducing candidate quotas to ensure at least 50% women in the Senedd. The work on the bill is ongoing.
A Plaid Cymru spokesperson stated their commitment to making the Senedd more representative and highlighted that it would be premature to comment on leaked documents that are still in development. They look forward to the publication of the final bill later in the year.