JK Rowling has accused Sir Keir Starmer of misrepresenting equalities law, claiming Labour can “no longer be counted on to defend women’s rights”.
Sir Keir told The Times “trans women are women” according to statute in the UK, and called for a more “considered, respectful, tolerant debate” about gender.
But Rowling said he had misrepresented the law, which she said indicated “the Labour Party can no longer be counted on to defend women’s rights”.
Sharing an article on Twitter about a police and crime commissioner reportedly reprimanded for her comments on gender issues, she said:
“I don’t think our politicians have the slightest idea how much anger is building among women from all walks of life at the attempts to threaten and intimidate them out of speaking publicly about their own rights, their own bodies and their own lives.
“Among the thousands of letters and emails I’ve received are disillusioned members of Labour, the Greens, the Lib Dems and the SNP. Women are scared, outraged and angry at the deaf ear turned to their well-founded concerns. But women are organising.
“Now @Keir_Starmer publicly misrepresents equalities law, in yet another indication that the Labour Party can no longer be counted on to defend women’s rights. But I repeat: women are organising across party lines, and their resolve and their anger are growing.”
Rowling appeared to be referring to comments attributed to the Labour leader in an article in The Times.
Asked to define a woman, he told the newspaper:
“A woman is a female adult, and in addition to that trans women are women, and that is not just my view – that is actually the law.
“It has been the law through the combined effects of the 2004 [Gender Recognition] Act and the 2010 [Equality] Act. So that’s my view. It also happens to be the law in the United Kingdom.”
Sir Keir was also asked about controversial legislation being considered in Scotland, which aims to make it easier for transgender people to be legally recognised as their preferred gender.
The Gender Recognition Reform (Scotland) Bill sets out proposals to speed up the time it takes to get a gender recognition certificate (GRC), and would also lower the age at which trans people can obtain the document from 18 to 16.
While LGBTI groups have welcomed the reforms, some feminist organisations fear there could be a loss of women-only spaces – such as refuges, hospital wards, toilets and changing rooms – which could then impact women’s safety.
Asked about the Scottish government’s plans, Sir Keir replied:
“The Gender Recognition Act needs to be reformed. And I believe in safe spaces for women — I’m very clear about those too.
“I think the 2004 act needs to be reformed, I think the 2010 act, the Equality Act, which does provide for safe spaces for women is right. And therefore I’m very straightforward about this.”
The newspaper said he called for a “more considered, respectful, tolerant debate about these issues”, adding: “I don’t think it furthers the interests of anybody to continue the debate in the way that it’s been going on now for some time.”
Labour declined to comment.