The UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has faced criticism for making a joke about transgender women in a speech to a group of Conservative MPs.
The leaked video, obtained by PinkNews, shows Sunak addressing the 1922 Committee – a weekly meeting of backbench Tory MPs – on June 5, 2023.
In the video, Sunak can be heard ridiculing the Liberal Democrat leader Ed Davey for his comments on LBC radio in May 2023. Davey had said that some women can have penises, because the law recognises the existence of transgender women.
Sunak told the laughing crowd: “You have noticed that Ed Davey has been very busy. You’ve probably seen that he’s been busy trying to convince everybody that women clearly have penises”.
He added: “You all know I’m a big fan of everybody studying maths to 18. But it turns out that we need to focus on biology to 18 as well!”
Sunak’s joke has been condemned by LGBT+ charities and activists as transphobic and harmful. John Nicolson, an SNP MP and member of the Women and Equalities Committee, said: “It’s both vacuous and nasty. It’s also a reminder that the Tories are still the nasty party”.
Sunak has previously expressed his intention to change the definition of sex in the Equality Act 2010 to exclude trans people. The current law protects people from discrimination based on their gender reassignment or gender identity.
Sunak said in August 2022 that he wanted to “100% protect women’s rights” and that “100% of women do not have penises”. He vowed to follow through on a Conservative Party pledge to legally change the definition of sex to align with biological sex.
However, LGBT+ charities and campaigners have warned that such a change would undermine the rights and dignity of trans people. They argue that trans women are women and trans men are men, regardless of their anatomy or chromosomes.
Baroness Falkner, the chair of the Equality and Human Rights Commission, has supported Sunak’s proposal, saying that changing the definition of sex would “bring greater legal clarity” and protect women’s rights.
But the EHRC’s Committees in Scotland and Wales have opposed the proposal, saying that it would create confusion and conflict with existing human rights laws and international obligations.
The debate over gender recognition has been divisive and contentious in the UK, with calls for more compassion and maturity from both sides. Trans people have faced increasing hostility and discrimination in recent years, while some feminists have expressed concerns about the impact of trans inclusion on women’s spaces and services.
– Leaked video appears to show Rishi Sunak mocking trans people, Independent TV, 18 June 2023
– Rishi Sunak makes joke about trans women in leaked video, The National, 18 June 2023
– Rishi Sunak caught making joke about transgender women in leaked video, inkl, 18 June 2023
– Just a day in office, UK PM Rishi Sunak faces flak for old comment on transwomen, India Today, 26 October 2022.