A woman for all seasons

Mar 27, 2023 by

by Yasmin Zenith, Artillery Row:

A rare brave voice in the House of Lords

Baroness Nicholson of Winterbourne is a Conservative peer from an ancient political lineage.

[…] If you have never heard of Annex B, it is not surprising. It was slipped into NHS policy without media scrutiny or debate. In 2010, the NHS Constitution added a pledge to provide single-sex accommodation, and it is still mandatory for hospital trusts to record breaches of this policy. Patients are ill, perhaps facing surgery, in an unfamiliar environment they cannot control in close proximity with people they don’t know. It is axiomatic that they should not be in mixed wards. The reasons are obvious: privacy, dignity, safety. Annex B renders that paradigm commitment meaningless because it requires NHS staff to place patients in the ward they request. Its “broad and inclusive” definition of “transgender” is well worth reading. There is no requirement for a Gender Recognition Certificate (GRC), no requirement for any pharmaceutical or surgical “reassignment treatment”. There is zero requirement for a consistent identification with the opposite sex. Living “temporarily in a gender role” will suffice. If a man identifies fleetingly as “non-binary”, Annex B dictates that his demand to be placed in the women’s ward will be met. In an extraordinary example of ideological fervour, some hospitals included guidance that women who objected were to be told no men were present on the ward. As Baroness Nicholson has argued, it is self-ID in practice. She was unable to revoke Annex B, but she spotlighted this clandestine NHS policy and its serious ramifications. During the debate on the Health and Care Bill, she said, “I suggest that the rights of women are a priori a touchstone for any civilised society. We have got it wrong, we have somehow changed course.”

When she first started speaking in defence of women’s sex-segregated spaces, she received a private message of support from a female peer. Baroness Nicholson asked why more people were not speaking out about this. The reply was immediate. “People are frightened about the career repercussions. For their grandchildren.”

The House of Lords is the apotheosis of power and privilege. What does it say about the tattered state of freedom of speech in this country when its members remain silent for fear of family career annihilation? A blanket of itchy orthodoxy has been thrown over debate in the UK to smother dissent.

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