A charity has opened up a new frontline in the transgender war after being accused of abandoning women’s rights by declaring there is no such thing as biological sex.
Action Aid’s stance has angered anti-trans campaigners, who questioned how it could fight against sexual abuse if it did not acknowledge that sex exists.
Sarah Phillimore, a family law barrister, threatened to cancel her regular donation to the charity, stating that she could not be “complicit in funding denial of reality and rank misogyny.”
Debbie Hayton, a campaigner for trans rights, also scoffed at the policy, suggesting it was borne out of desperation to be seen to be doing the right thing.
“It flies in the face of common sense,” She told the Telegraph. “Sex is real. Trans people would not achieve any liberation by denying science.”
Action Aid, which fights for women’s rights around the world, wrote to supporters last week, urging them to campaign for “gender equality” to be prioritised following the merger of the Foreign Office and the Department for International Development (Dfid).
One unidentified recipient replied, asking for the word “gender” to be switched for “sex”, noting that the two words were “conflated on a regular basis and it is causing issues.”
“Women and girls are being discriminated against and abused on the basis of their sex,” they wrote. “Words are important and it needs to be crystal clear who is being subject to the violence so we can help those most in need.”
The charity responded by saying that when they referred to women and girls, transgender women and girls were included in that definition.
“Action Aid UK defines women and girls as anyone who self-identifies as a woman or a girl,” it said.
“Allowing self-determination of our bodies is a basic feminist principle. ActionAid UK understands there is no such thing as a ‘biologically female/male body’, and that a person’s genitalia doesn’t determine their gender.”
In a blog post highlighting the exchange last week, Ms Phillimore railed against the charity’s stance, stating that “women and girls do not ‘chose’ to become victims of violence, rape, sex trafficking, FGM or abortion.”
It comes after JK Rowling faced an intense backlash after taking issue with an online article about “people who menstruate” last month.
Maya Forstater, a campaigner who lost her job as a tax specialist after being accused of publishing “offensive” tweets questioning government proposals to allow people to self-identify as the opposite sex, highlighted the charity’s safeguarding framework, which defines sexual abuse as “actual or threatened physical intrusion of a sexual nature”.
She questioned how it could qualify that “without acknowledging that sex exists.”
Ms Hayton, who has been critical of militants, added: “It’s nonsense, who is teaching these people science?
“Sex is important in a lot of Action Aid’s work. To deny it is unhelpful but also dangerous. If you ignore sex, you also ignore sexism, and then women lose out.
“We have two oppressed groups - women and trans people - but no obvious negotiation looking for solutions that uphold the rights of both. There are solutions where everybody wins.”
Action Aid trustees said in a statement last night: “We recognise the specific discrimination that trans women and girls face. Action Aid UK also believes that both sex and gender based discrimination are deeply embedded in the patriarchal structures operating in the countries Action Aid works in.
“We take the topic of inclusion very seriously, however, trustees have not yet had the opportunity to discuss a policy in relation to the organisation’s charitable mission working with women and girls in the world's poorest countries.
“Trustees are committed to doing so. These are complex issues that require consideration and consultation with our stakeholders and rights holders.
“Action Aid is committed to being an inclusive organisation for everyone and we are working with our staff, stakeholders and rights-holders to develop clear policies that recognise the rights and needs of everyone.
“We do not believe this can be done with the respect it deserves over social media.”