Wednesday, 22 May 2024

WI faces membership fury over decision to admit trans women

The Women’s Institute has stirred up controversy among its membership over its decision to let transgender people join — and now a campaign group has been set up in protest at the move.

The group — Women’s Institute Declaration — claims that the policy, which states “transgender women are welcome to join the WI and to participate in any WI activities in the same way as any other woman”, is putting the Women’s Institute in an “untenable position”.

It has started a petition, gathering so far around a thousand signatures, warning the WI’s parent group, the National Federation of Women’s Institutes, that its traditional objectives are being threatened and that “it cannot legitimately campaign for women-specific issues”.

The group also alleges that individual WI’s constitutions “have been de facto changed without members’ consent to allow anyone to join, regardless of sex”.

In a report carried by The Telegraph, the petition is said to call for the admission of new trans members to be put on hold, although current trans members can remain, while members debate the implications of the policy. The petition also demands a vote on the stance.

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The Women’s Institute Declaration reportedly wrote to board members of the WI stating: “By failing to define what a woman is, by having a wide description for a trans woman and by not allowing respectful debate, or debate of any kind, the NFWI has de facto forced individual Women’s Institutes to accept men. This has been achieved by poor drafting of policies, poor advice from advisers and is harmful to women as a whole.”

On its website the WI says transgender women are welcome “to participate in any WI activities in the same way as any other woman”. The policy, it added, “builds on our ambitions and enriches our membership to ensure we are a place for all women to celebrate who they are and influence positive change in their communities”.

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The WI, formed in 1915, is Britain’s biggest voluntary organisation for women with around 180,000 members. In 2015 it announced that it would welcome transgender women and in 2021 it featured on the cover of its magazine Petra Wenham, who transitioned to a woman when she was aged 68.

The WI was contacted for comment. The controversy comes as the Government was preparing to redraft laws on equality to protect females by making it easier to stop trans people participating in women’s sports and entering single-sex spaces.

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