Victorian election: Where do the parties stand on women’s sex-based rights?

Victorian election: Where do the parties stand on women’s sex-based rights?

Victorians will vote in the state’s election this coming Saturday 26 November. There are many important issues to consider in terms of parties’ policy positions, but key on our radar is the question: Where do the parties stand on women’s sex-based rights?

In other words, which parties know what a woman is? Which parties recognise that protecting the rights and safety of women and girls entails preserving single-sex spaces, services and activities, like prisons, domestic violence refuges, bathrooms and sports? Which parties are willing to take a stand for women and girls on these issues?

A good litmus test is our ongoing campaign to remove a violent male sex offender – who identifies as a woman and who has committed serious sexual offences against females – from Dame Phyllis Frost women’s prison in Victoria.

For the past three months, Women’s Forum Australia in conjunction with the Coalition for Biological Reality and other women’s advocates, have been calling on Victorian authorities to remove the man in question and to protect the safety and human rights of female prisoners. The responses – or lack of – from the parties we contacted, are telling (more details regarding the responses of all the public officials we contacted can be found here).

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Labor

Premier Daniel Andrews and Minister for Women The Hon Natalie Hutchins failed to respond to our concerns at all, and Attorney-General Jaclyn Symes and Minister for Equality Harriet Shing declined to intervene, passing the issue to Minister for Corrections Sonya Kilkenny.

Equality Minister Harriet Shing’s response on 25 September 2022 was particularly disappointing. It mentioned the “distress and fatigue the trans and gender diverse community is feeling as a result of ongoing debates about their rights” and the need to support them. However, it made no reference whatsoever to the safety and rights of women - which are currently being undermined - or to the distress and fear that female inmates are experiencing as a result of a male sex offender being housed in their prison. Indeed, Shing’s letter made no mention of women at all.

The response from Minister for Corrections Sonya Kilkenny (from whom we never received any direct communication) was prepared by Commissioner Larissa Strong. Strong was responsible for developing the Commissioner’s Requirements, which allow trans-identifying males to be housed in women’s prisons.

Strong’s response merely reiterated her own guidelines stating that people “should be accommodated in the system of their gender, rather than sex assigned or assumed at birth” taking into consideration “safety and security concerns”, without actually addressing any of our concerns regarding the safety and human rights of female inmates when housed with a violent male sex offender.

For example, Strong offered no evidence to show that the rapes and sexual assaults (alleged and convicted) of female inmates by trans-identifying male prisoners in Australia and overseas have been taken into account, nor that there is an appropriate understanding of the grave psychological impact of housing a male sex offender with victims of sexual abuse. She made it clear that Corrections Victoria’s decisions take into account the preferences of trans-identified males, but not the preferences of the female inmates they are to be locked up with.

The response (and lack of response) from Labor politicians is perhaps expected given many have openly supported self-identification policies and the party’s National Platform supports policy that will “review documentation requirements, including the use of passports and birth certificates, as they affect transgender and intersex people, to ensure that male, female and nonbinary identity can be affirmed without discrimination.” Such self-identification policy also compromises the safety of women and girls in other (what should be) female-only spaces, services and activities.

Liberals & Nationals

Responses from Liberal and National Party Shadow Ministers have been no better. We have received no response from Opposition Leader Matthew Guy, Shadow Minister for Corrections Brad Battin or Shadow Attorney-General Michael O’Brien (Liberals).

Shadow Minister for Equality James Newbury (Liberal) and Shadow Minister for Women Emma Kealy (National) responded simply encouraging us to keep raising the matter with the relevant Victorian Government Ministers, but without offering any substantial support.

The Labor Government may currently be the ones with the power to effect change in this area, but the Labor Party’s patent adherence to gender ideology mean it is unlikely to lift a finger to protect female inmates from a trans-identifying male sex offender.

However, the Liberal Party’s lack of action is just as disappointing, if not more so, given that many Liberals are well aware of the havoc that gender-based policies and practices are wreaking on women and children when it comes to (what should be) single-sex spaces and activities like prisons, bathrooms, changerooms, domestic violence refuges, sports and so on. Indeed, multiple Liberal senators have spoken out about these issues at the federal level.

We could not find any Liberal or National policies regarding self-identification or women's sex-based rights and safety. There is, however, hope for the Liberals in Victoria in up and coming candidates like Moira Deeming, who has been a strong advocate of female-only spaces, services and sports, as well as child safeguarding in the face of aggressive trans activism.

Minor parties

After the disappointing response from Victorian government ministers and shadow ministers, we also raised our concerns with the Democratic Labor Party (DLP), the United Australia Party (UAP), the Family First Party, the Liberal Democrats, and the Shooters, Fishers and Farmers Party.

The DLP, UAP and Family First have all personally indicated their support for our position on removing the male sex offender from the Dame Phyllis Frost women’s prison and keeping prisons single-sex. They have also expressed their willingness to ensure that this becomes a reality after the election.

Bernie Finn MP, Victorian Leader of the DLP, told us:

“There is no way any biological man should ever be housed in a women's prison.

Sexual assault has occurred as a result of this particular form of insanity.

Women's safety must always come before warped ideology.”

DLP President Hugh Dolan added:

“It is madness to incarcerate a man in a women's prison.

 Is this an example of a warped ideology of a government intent on destroying the identity of women in society? 

 Women will be placed at immediate risk. It must be stopped.

If the DLP are elected to parliament I will personally guarantee that we will pursue this issue; women must be protected especially when they are most vulnerable.” 

The Victorian leader of the United Australia Party, Geoff Shaw, told us he supports our campaign to remove the male sex offender from Dame Phyllis Frost women’s prison, as well as women’s and girls’ sex-based rights more broadly.

It’s important to speak up for women in prison to protect them from this sexual predator, and from future males entering the women’s prison system because they choose to call themselves female.

They are not.

Seriously, no fair-minded Victorian is buying the lie that this man should have a holiday at tax payer’s expense in a women’s prison.

The Andrews’ Labor Government should be dealing with this, but they care more about woke virtue signalling, than women’s safety.

If you’re a man, you shouldn’t be in a women’s prison, competing in women sports, or sharing female toilets. It’s as simple as that.”

In addition to being willing to stand up for the rights and safety of female prisoners in the face of harmful self-identification policies, the DLP and Family First have also noted their support for the sex-based rights and safety of women and girls in other areas.

The DLP’s website notes its commitment to “end unfair sporting competition by transgender athletes by mandating that athletes may only compete as the biological sex based gender they were born with” and to “end efforts to remove “women” from medical descriptions”.

Family First includes on its website its policies to “protect girls’ and women’s sport from the intrusion of biological males”, to “protect children from harmful gender ideology”, and to “ban the use of puberty blockers, cross-sex hormones and “gender affirmation” surgery on minors.”

We have not received any response from the Liberal Democrats or the Shooters, Fishers and Farmers Party, and could not find any policies regarding self-identification or women’s sex-based rights and safety.

The Greens

We did not contact The Greens as they have made their position on self-identification and who takes precedence when there is a conflict of rights between women and trans-identifying males abundantly clear.

Their Victorian policies include a ‘Sexual Orientation, Gender Identity and Intersex Policy’ which includes principles like:

“4. All people have the right to their self-identified gender, which is integral to the lived experiences of many as citizens and members of the community. We recognise that trans women are women, trans men are men, and gender diverse identities exist and are valid.” 

“8. There is a diversity of sexual orientations, sex characteristics and gender identities. Erasure (or the lack of accurate recognition) of people’s sexual orientation, sex characteristics or gender identity can be offensive, hurtful and detrimental to people’s wellbeing.”

The policy also aims for:

“12. A simplified process that ensures that people are able to easily alter their sex on all official documents, consistent with how they live and identify, without a requirement for gender affirmation surgery or hormonal therapy, and without their past sex or gender identity being revealed.” 

“13. Where possible, sex or gender to be removed from official documents, or a voluntary, opt-in third gender marker to be included.”

“24. The removal of blanket anti-discrimination exemptions that allow the exclusion of people of certain sex characteristics or gender identity from competitive sporting activities.”

The only mention of ‘women’ in their entire policy is in the statement: “We recognise that trans women are women”. In other words, the only time ‘women’ are referred to, The Greens are not even talking about actual women, but rather validating men who say they are women.

The controversy with Melbourne Greens Councillor Rohan Leppert earlier this year further confirms there is little doubt about The Greens’ blind allegiance to an ideology that harmfully elevates the importance of ‘gender identity’ over sex and biological reality, and women’s and children’s rights and safety.