A Labour MP was wrong to say that “only women have a cervix”, party leader Sir Keir Starmer has said.
Rosie Duffield has been criticised for her opposition to transgender women being able to access single-sex spaces such as domestic violence refuges, school toilets and prisons.
The Canterbury MP is not attending Labour’s conference in Brighton on security advice after allegedly getting threats.
In a tweet last year she questioned why she was being called a “transphobe” for “knowing that only women have a cervix”.
Asked about the issue during an appearance on the BBC’s Andrew Marr Show, Sir Keir said there needed to be a “mature and respectful debate” around trans rights.
He said trans individuals are among the “most marginalised and abused communities”.
And on Ms Duffield, he declined to call her remarks transphobic, but added: “It is something that shouldn’t be said. It is not right.
“I spoke to Rosie earlier this week and told her conference is a safe place for her to come, and it is a safe place for her to come.
“We do everybody a disservice when we reduce what is a really important issue to these exchanges on particular things that are said.”
Sir Keir added: “We need to have a mature, respectful debate about trans rights and we need to bear in mind that the trans community are amongst the most marginalised and abused communities, and wherever we’ve got to on the law, we need to go further.”
Angela Rayner, Labour’s deputy leader, said it was a “concern” that Ms Duffield felt unable to travel to Brighton for conference and promised “robust” action against any party member who targets her.
“Rosie deserves our full support and protection against that and she would get that,” she told Sky’s Trevor Phillips on Sunday programme.
“If she had come to conference, we would have risk-assessed and made sure that she had every bit of support that she needed to be here.”
Reacting to Sir Keir’s remarks, Health Secretary Sajid Javid accused the Labour leader of displaying a “total denial of scientific facts”.
“And he wants to run the NHS,” he wrote on Twitter.
The NHS website, under the heading – “Should trans men have cervical screening tests?” – states: “Trans men who still have a cervix should have cervical screening to help prevent cervical cancer.”
It adds: “Trans men who have had a total hysterectomy to remove their cervix do not need cervical screening.”
In a speech to conference on Saturday, Labour’s shadow equalities secretary Annelise Dodds said Labour was committed to reforming the Gender Recognition Act, making it easier for trans people to change their legal documents, to match their gender assigned at birth to their current identity.
She also committed to the 2010 Equality Act, which states that trans people have the right to access gendered services appropriate to their identity, except in rare circumstances.
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