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Row over women’s festival


A dispute occurred over whether trans women would be allowed to enter "women only" events at The Audacious Women Festival

A row has erupted over “women only” events at a festival.

The Audacious Women Festival (AWF) took place over five days in Edinburgh last week.

However the event was affected by disputes over whether or not trans women would be admitted.

The AWF celebrates the achievements of inspirational women, with exhibitions and performances open to anyone and workshops restricted to women.

Organisers faced criticism for their policy on whether or not trans people would be allowed into the women-only events.

In response to a comment on Facebook asking what their admission policy was, the AWF said: “For women only events we follow EHRC guidelines on providing single sex spaces, so these workshops are open to all women, including trans people with a GRC or who are visually and for all practical purposes indistinguishable from other women.”

However AWF has denied that it is transphobic, and said no-one had been asked for a GRC or turned away from any of its events over the past four years.

The policy resulted in Glasgow Women’s Library (GWL) withdrawing from hosting two events that had been scheduled for the festival.

A statement from the charity said: “We considered this as problematic, implying that access to our event would have entailed confirmation from trans women regarding gender recognition certification and our staff having to make judgments on whether women attending ‘looked like’ women. We considered that this is not a humane, tenable, or indeed practical, policy to implement.”

The GWL said that it sought further clarification from organisers but felt their concerns were not addressed and hence had to cancel the events at the last minute.

The statement continued: “We decided to give as much time as possible to AWF to post our own policy wording on the GWL event listing pages, even if this meant allowing an overnight time scale on Thursday. When nothing had changed early on Friday morning, we felt that we had no choice but to withdraw. We would have preferred to have been able to act sooner and given more notice, but we wanted to give AWF time to respond and hopefully be able to continue with the workshops.

“We contacted AWF, posted our cancellation on social media, and contacted the venue. We were unable to contact participants directly as bookings were made through AWF organisers. A GWL staff member went to the venue to speak to women turning up at both events.

“Although we wanted to give AWF organisers as much time as possible to respond, we sincerely apologise to the women who turned up to the event, and to those who were inconvenienced.”

Speaking to TFN, a spokeswoman for the AWF said the festival had never asked anyone to prove their gender.

She said: "This is the fourth year of the festival and we have held a range of events.

"We have never turned anyone away from an event and have never asked anyone for a GRC. We have said this publicly.

"To ask for GRC never has been and never will be our policy."

The organisers defended their rights to hold women-only events and criticised GWL for their last minute cancellation of events.

The spokeswoman added: "They gave us little explanation for the their events being cancelled.

"They put out a statement to say that they believed our event did not meet their core values.

"Nobody was turned away from the festival and nobody was told that they couldn't come.

"The cancellation of their events was done in an extremely disruptive and unpleasant manner."



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