Where are the Women

Where are the Women

It is merely days since the world was promoting International Women’s Day on the 8th of March. Social media was awash with thoughtful tributes honouring the women in our lives and how proud we are of their unique role and influence. The ‘like’ buttons are barely fresh and yet we have a storm brewing that will effectively muzzle women and their rightful places. In recent days one must ask, “where are the feminists?” – the ones that define a woman as in the words of Helen Reddy’s famous anthem… ‘I am woman hear me roar’. The crickets were chirping in the women’s corner as the media hysteria arose over a UK speaker intending to visit our shores. Who knew that it was a dangerous thing to defend safe spaces for women, women’s sport and even our definition. 

The media commentary around the UK speaker’s right to enter the country causes us to pause and consider the diminished rights of women. Australia has publicised controversies that challenge the rights for women and girls including; in Victoria there is an ongoing petition to remove men from women’s prison because they have used loopholes  in the law to change their sex and serve their sentence within women’s prison walls in amongst vulnerable women *1 Women’s sport is being challenged to include males in their sport – all without a legal defence or ability to reason why a biological male should not be within their chosen sport *2 The trend for female to be included in male sports is not a trend.

A Vermont School girls’ basketball team decided to forfeit their tournament. “We withdrew from the tournament because we believe playing against an opponent with a biological male jeopardizes the fairness of the game and the safety of our players.” *3 Clearly it was not a stance of ‘hate’ but of fairness in sport.

 Being an assertive conservative Christian woman does not automatically equate to being anti-trans.

We can easily dismiss the outrage and unjust circumstances as nothing to do with New Zealand and abide by the narrative that ‘we don’t want clashes erupting here’…but the issue is here. Sports and facility policies have clauses to accommodate not ‘discriminate’ *4 Schools are under pressure to bend into government guidelines.  And, it is about to become more problematic. 

In December 2021 the Self Identification amendment was passed in New Zealand parliament. The legal frameworks were solidified throughout an 18-month process and the law becomes ‘activated’ on 15th June 2023. It is an amendment to the Birth, Death, Marriages and Relationship Registration law.

“The self-identification process for people to amend their sex on their birth certificate…will be available from 15th June 2023.” *5 No medical evidence is required to change sex, changing the previous requirement of approval from a doctor or judge and it now no longer goes through the Family Court system. 

A person can apply to register their nominated sex. There will not be any additional requirements if a person applies to change their name (to reflect a more gender aligned name) and sex multiple times. The ‘Third Party’ clause is now defined and any person (child or adult) seeking to change their sex on birth certificate can seek assistance for the legal process with the choice of (either) two groups:
A) registered professionals, doctors, psychologists, psychotherapists, social workers, nurses, counsellors.


B) and person aged 18 years and over that has known the child or young person for 12 months or more.

In a nutshell, children up to 15 years of age need parents and a third party but 16 years of age plus just need ‘someone who has known them 12 months’ to abide a legal documentation change.

Law is decided by our politicians and often with a personal story to assert the need for change, but law is permanent, and its original intent loses its way as time goes on and the interpretation of law in court cases changes. Law making is a serious business with consequences often not considered. So, when the Self-ID law becomes active from June 15th, I predict a changed landscape in council and school policy, women’s sport and all things considered exclusive spaces reserved for women.

 It goes beyond a trans-rights argument when a girl is denied her rightful place on the regional swim team because her place is now taken by a person who has changed their sex on birth certificate and can legally be part of the swim team. We don’t have the cases here in New Zealand at the moment, but in Australia and USA, men are in women’s prisons, women’s refuges, night-spaces of emergency accommodation for women. It can be argued that Nicola Sturgeon lost her Prime Minister’s position due to a male rapist claiming self-identified changed sex to be sentenced to a women’s prison. New Zealand should be able to learn from the dire consequences of law changes – but the law is live soon and about to make its presence felt. 

“Sex is not something immaterial that can be nominated …it undermines accomplishments, achievements and advances women have made…it changes entire girl’s colleges without any affected young women being consulted…” * 6

When the law seeks to redefine ‘women’ and what it means to be a ‘woman’ it over-reaches. History, understanding female dignity, has asserted that women have safe places for good reason. 

Olympic champion Deb Acason retired from their sport of strength in weightlifting and Tracey Lambrechs lost her long-held records due to a male competitor in her field. She lost her top ranking and was advised to drop to a lower weight division to keep her place in the New Zealand team. She’s now retired, upset over her treatment. In the nod to ‘inclusion’ we have excluded many women and their rightful places. Perhaps next International Women’s Day we will be able to tweet, post and upload the idea that being a woman is no longer a politicized weapon and we can feel and be a little safer. 

Written by Sue Reid

Board Member Family First New Zealand

Woman, wife, mother, sister, niece


*1 www.womensforumaustralia.org/petition_2208_prison

*2 https://assets.nationbuilder.com/wfa/pages/261/attachments/original/1656632149/A_Fair_Playing_Field.pdf?1656632149

*2 https://www.lawinsport.com/topics/item/the-admission-of-transgender-athletes-to-competition-the-case-of-hannah-mouncey

*3 The Guardian 2/3/2023 – Maya Yang

 *4 https://sportnz.org.nz/diversity-and-inclusion/transgender-inclusion/

*5 Hon Jan Tinetti – Internal Affairs Minister 9/12/2021 https://www.beehive.govt.nz/release/self-identification-new-milestone-new-zealand%E2%80%99s-history

*6 Submission to the Birth, Deaths, Marriages and Relationships Registration amendment bill 21/3/23  www.parliament.nz/en/pb/sc/submissions-and-advice/document/52SCGA_EVI_74854_789/ms-renee-gerlich

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