Shhh! The case of a British paedophile who was locked up with women is best not discussed on a Massey campus

The question of what process should be followed before people can change the genders recorded on their birth certificates may well have been discussed on Massey University’s Wellington campus.

Trouble is, a bunch of students with firm ideas on the subject and a militant urge to muzzle contrary ideas staged a sit-in and pressed for the university to cancel the event.

Massey’s administrators – anxious to cocoon sensitive staff and students from information or arguments that might offend or upset them – accordingly advised Speak Up For Women to find an alternative venue for its Feminism 2020 event.

The University has received external advice on its health, safety and wellbeing obligations under the Health and Safety at Work Act 2015, and its duty of care to the University community, and has made the decision on these grounds.

The legal advice we have received is that cancellation of the event, as concluded by the report, is the only way to eliminate the risk to health and safety and to ensure that the University would not be in breach of its health and safety obligations.

Massey University declared itself to be committed to the values of academic freedom, the freedom of speech, and the freedom of expression, “as values that lie at the very heart of the tradition of a university and academic inquiry”. But …

” … this event has created significant disruption to our students, staff and  University operations, and we cannot accept any further risk or issues, or any risk of potential harm that may impact upon a particularly vulnerable community.”

This seems to mean that a small group of agitators made a great deal of noise in expressing their opposition to the Speak Up For Women event. And the university surrendered to their demands.

But when New Zealand Herald columnist Rachel Stewart went out to bat for the women’s group  …

Well, the Herald suppressed publication of the column and its author has resigned.

Speak up for Women published the column on their website, however, and it was reproduced on Kiwiblog (here) and The Daily Blog (here).

Among other things, Stewart said the students who muzzled  the women’s group believe that no one should be allowed to discuss, debate, or hear the reasons why many women are concerned about an amendment (currently on hold) to the Births, Deaths, and Marriages Registration Bill that would allow a person to change their legal gender by simply signing a declaration.

She observed:

The group formed because they were legitimately concerned the amendment would prevent women from excluding men from changing rooms, bathrooms, women’s prisons, women’s shelters and any other women and girls-only space. In a nutshell, they don’t agree that trans women are women just because they say they are.

The group supports the current law, which allows a person to change the sex on their birth certificate if they go through certain steps – specifically applying in writing to the Court and obtaining a medical sign-off from a doctor.

They also make it clear they support the rights of transgender people to live without violence and discrimination.

The case for some sort of check against people self-declaring their gender irrespective of biological realities (or apparent realities) is buttressed by the case of a convicted paedophile in Britain.

The Telegraph a year ago reported: 

The prison service has apologised after a transgender inmate, charged with raping a woman, sexually assaulted four fellow inmates just days after being remanded into an all female jail.

Convicted paedophile Karen White, who was born Stephen Wood, was undergoing gender reassignment, but had not undergone full surgery, when she was accused of repeatedly raping a woman in 2016.

The 52-year-old, who had been previously been jailed in 2001 for a sex attack on a child, told the authorities she identified as a woman and was remanded into HMP New Hall near Wakefield, West Yorkshire.

But within days of arriving at the women-only prison in September last year, White made a sexual advance to another inmate,…

And so on

Massey University authorities, committed to academic freedom and freedom of speech blah, blah, might take note of a consequence of the apology in the Karen White case.

The Open University on Britain was forced to cancel a conference on prison reform following threats from the transgender lobby.

More than a hundred delegates had already bought tickets for the two-day event in May,  co-organised by the Centre for Crime and Justice Studies, when the conference was called off.

The CCJS had said providing fair, decent and respectful provision for trans women prisoners could best be achieved with accommodation that is separate from female prisoners.”

Transgender activists accused the CCJS, an educational charity, of “transphobia” for pressing for transgender female prisoners to be incarcerated separately from female prisoners.

“The Open University faced quite significant pressure from transgender activists. They received a number of emails where some of the language was extraordinarily overheated,” a source told The Telegraph.

“They were effectively being threatened with demonstrations and disruptive activity, possibly in the conference hall itself, and some kind of picket line or protest outside the conference.”

The CCJS therefore announced that the conference, Prison Abolition in the UK,  had been cancelled.

It planned to hold another summit for academics and lawyers to discuss a new British Home Office initiative aimed at identifying and deporting foreign criminals.

But the organisation was told that invites to potential speakers were met with a tepid or negative response, not because of the event itself – which they were keen to take part in – but due to the centre’s position on transgender prisons.

Prospective speakers were concerned that the may be criticised for associating with such views if they appeared at the event.

Massey authorities should take note of a Telegraph report just this month on bullying and threats of violence against academics.

A chaperone accompanies you to your office. Inside, a panic alarm is kept within reach. Once, your office door was covered in urine. You’ve faced multiple death and rape threats. Abuse and harassment, delivered online and in person, have become routine features of your working life.

This is the experience facing academics in seemingly genteel British universities – or, at least, the experience of those bold enough to question the claim that gender is simply a matter of identity.

Last week, Professor Rosa Freedman, a professor of law at Reading University was given a panic alarm by security officers, simply because she has spoken out about her concern that sex is being conflated with gender.

To wrap up this post, let’s check out the case of the transgender man who hoped to create legal history by having his baby become the first in Britain to legally have no mother.

He lost his battle in the High Court, where presiding judge cited the “basic facts of life”.

Freddy McConnell, who was born a woman but later transitioned to become a man, took the Government to court earlier this year for refusing to let him register as the “father” on his child’s birth certificate. 

The Government argued that he must be the “mother” because he gave birth to the child, who has a “right to know the identity of the person who carried him or her”.

Handing down his decision in the High Court today, the President of the Family Division, Sir Andrew McFarlane, sided with the Government, telling Mr McConnell that he must appear as “mother” on the birth certificate. 

In his written judgment, Sir Andrew “looked back on earlier times” to draw upon the common law definition of a mother “prior to the mid-20th century, when conception and pregnancy other than through sexual intercourse was unknown.”  

“In the absence of any statutory definition of ‘mother’, the position at common law must be the essential starting point in any analysis,” he wrote. “In those times, at common law a person who became pregnant through the insemination of an egg in their womb and who subsequently gave birth to a child must have been that child’s mother.   

“In this the law was doing no more than reflecting common sense, common experience and the basic facts of life; motherhood was established by the act of giving birth.” 

Despite acknowledging that law has changed since, Sir Andrew concluded that Mr McConnell must be registered as the “mother” regardless of his new male status because he gave birth to the child. 

It looks like this will become another issue to be thrashed out in this country.

But don’t count on Massey University or the New Zealand Herald ensuring there is a healthy public debate.

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