Labour offers to meet with JK Rowling to give 'assurances' on women's rights

Labour says it will make it easier for people to legally change genders, ITV News Political Correspondent Carl Dinnen reports.

Labour's Rachel Reeves says the party will meet with Harry Potter author JK Rowling to give her "assurances" over the party's commitment to protecting women-only spaces.

The shadow chancellor made the offer after Rowling said at the weekend that Labour had “abandoned” her and others campaigning for women’s rights.

Rowling, who is a former member of the Labour Party and has donated to them in the past, said she would "struggle to support them " at the General Election on July 4.

The author has become known as a fierce advocate for the rights of biological women after publically criticising Scottish government proposals to introduce self-identification for transgender people.

While gender recognition reforms were passed by Holyrood, the legislation was never implemented after being blocked by the UK Government.

Reports on Monday suggest a Labour government could make it easier for people to legally transition by removing the need for them to prove they have lived as their preferred gender for two years.

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The Times newspaper reported this will be replaced with a two-year “reflection period”, with the party also set to drop the number of doctors needed to approve a person’s gender recognition certificate – which recognises them in their preferred gender – from two to one.

Reeves, however, insisted protection for single-sex spaces for women would “absolutely stay”.

Speaking as she campaigned in Scotland, Reeves said: “We’re not going to be changing anything around biological sex. So the Equality Act stands and the protection of single-sex spaces, based on biological sex will absolutely stay.

“Labour introduced the Equality Act, it is very important to us and that protection for single-sex spaces.”

Regarding Rowling’s comments, the shadow chancellor added: “We’re really happy to talk to JK Rowling to give her assurances about that.”

Reeves insisted: “For me, those protections whether it is about prisons, refuges, changing spaces, that is really important to me, it is really important to the Labour Party that those single-sex spaces based on biological sex are protected.

“And nothing in our plans goes contrary to that, nothing at all.”

Labour's Shadow Health Secretary Wes Streeting said the debate around transgender and women's rights is often "toxic".

"There will be spaces that will be only for biological women, those spaces need to be protected, their voices need to be respected and protected," he said.

"We're confident that we can find our way through what has actually been often a toxic discussion."

However, Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has insisted Labour’s proposals could create “loopholes that would be exploited by bad faith actors”.

Speaking to journalists in Edinburgh, he said: “What I’ve seen from the Labour Party is they’re going to undo all the progress that we’ve made on this issue, undermine the protections that we’ve put in place for women’s rights and their safety and security.

His comments came as he insisted Labour had never “properly cared or understood this issue”, while Scottish Conservatives leader Douglas Ross said the reaction from Rowling showed “how out of touch Labour are with this issue”.

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