By Molly Pipe, SU Correspondent
Women Talk Back! have said the presence of males at sensitive events could stop women from talking openly about their experiences.
Feminist society Women Talk Back! has been disciplined by Bristol SU for not allowing transgender women to attend events.
The society, which says it is ‘open to all women, regardless of student status, income or background’, ran a series of women-only talks and discussions about male violence towards females.
Dear everyone,— RaquelRosarioSánchez (@8RosarioSanchez) March 14, 2021
On a personal level, thank you all for the kindness and solidarity on this matter. It's been difficult to go through this silently over the past year, on top of everything else. But we remain undaunted: women have the right to say "no." And that's a full sentence. https://t.co/e2BYJwbRYI
However, they denied access to transgender women, saying that the presence of males would make some attendees afraid to speak openly about their experiences.
The SU’s complaints panel decided to apply sanctions to the group after finding it in breach of the code of conduct.
Society president Raquel Rosario-Sánchez, a PhD student, has now been banned from her position by the SU and will not be allowed to hold union leadership posts for two years.
The SU has also required the committee members to complete an equality, diversity and inclusion course.
In response, the society has written to Education Minister Gavin Williamson about the incident, calling on him to combat ‘silencing and censoring’.
The statement also outlines how the society makes use of single-sex exceptions from the Equality Act 2010 in its meetings.
Last year, a student reportedly filed a complaint against the society after a trans woman was shut out from a campus meeting on ‘women’s boundaries’ in law, culture and society.
In a separate statement the society said that the topics of their meetings, which often concern male violence, can be ‘a challenging endeavour for some of the women attending.
‘Our attendees have repeatedly stressed how important it is that we protect their rights to privacy, safety and dignity when discussing such sensitive matters.’
Ms Rosario-Sanchez, 30, also told The Telegraph: ‘Women have a right to single-sex spaces when we are talking about sensitive matters. We want to use that law so any woman can have a space to talk and be respected and believed.
‘There is this climate where people think they have a right to censor and silence the free speech of others. It’s happening to us and so many students, but universities are becoming weaker and weaker.’
A Bristol SU spokesperson said: ‘The definition of ‘women’ in the Bristol SU byelaws is “All who self define as women, including (if they wish) those with complex gender identities that include ‘woman’, and those who experience oppression as women”.
‘Bristol SU investigated the conduct of one of our affiliated groups – The Women Talk Back Society following a complaint on their decision not to allow a trans student into one of their events.
‘The behaviour was found to be in breach of the Bristol SU Code of Conduct, and the complaints panel decided that it is appropriate to apply sanctions to the group.’
Featured Image: Lucy O’Neill
What do you think of the society being disciplined?