Petitioning the government

If you care about something deeply, and want to make a difference, why not- start a petition on the UK government website? It’s so user-friendly. “What do you want us to do?” it asks. It wants a headline. Then, “Tell us more”. Why do you want government or parliament to do this? It only allows 800 characters, including spaces, for background and additional information, so you might be better to draft before going on site. Then you need five supporters’ email addresses.

It has to meet the “petition standards”, but this is a low bar. It has to call for a clear action within the government or parliament’s responsibilities. It should not contain false or unproven statements. It should not be “offensive or extreme”, which includes petitions that negatively focus on a group of people because of characteristics such as gender identity. This rule is interpreted narrowly.

The petition to find the 200 lost refugee children was rejected. It says 440 have gone missing and only 200 have returned, but an official refused it saying the state is already looking for the children. Though not very hard.

906,229 people signed to call an immediate general election, and were brushed off. The most signatories ever asked to revoke article 50: 6,103,056.

Recently, the site has allowed hate petitions, but these are in a sense reassuring: they get fewer signatories than petitions for rights. One wanted gender identity removed from school relationships education. It got 38,403 signatures in six months, less than the 55,947 for “Increase funding for NHS transgender services”. The government did not respond to the hate petition, but said it was increasing funding and seeking to offer access to specialist interventions in primary care. That would be great. Waiting lists are still long.

The highest petitions on a search for gender are 140,768 to recognise nonbinary which was debated in Westminster Hall and 137,271 to Reform the GRA, by removing the need for a medical diagnosis, which was also debated.

Petitions are closed after six months, so the same request can be made again and again. There is a current petition to recognise nonbinary, closing on 13 June 2023. Obsessive anti-trans campaigner Natalie Bird wants trans women not to be counted as women in crime statistics, and has gained just 297 signatures in more than two months. But when she claims “The GRA has resulted in violent males being placed in women’s prisons”, she is clearly “negatively focusing” on trans people. She has breached the petition standards, but got away with it.

Obsessive anti-trans campaigner, and profiteer from the huge sums of money available to haters Maya Forstater has done better, though not as well as allies’ petitions. She’s got 76,124 caring enough to click a link or two to demand that “sex” in the Equality Act means biological sex. She wants all trans women excluded from all women’s services, and she does not care if women with androgen insensitivity are also legally excluded.

This is an attack on trans women. Now, we can go into women’s services. If Forstater got her way, we could not. But the petition was let through. The government response says there’s no need, it is easy to exclude trans women without such a change in the law.

A mirror petition to commit to not amending the Equality Act’s definition of sex has run more than two months to get 12,728 signatures. The government response says they are committed to single-sex services, referring to the EHRC 2022 guidance, not the 2011 code of practice, which takes precedence.

Almost on level pegging is a petition to repeal the GRA, again scaremongering about trans women. It says the GRA “causes avoidable harm to women and children who fear male violence”. That is a clear attack on trans women because we are trans.

In only a few days, the petition to reverse the decision to block the GRR (Scotland) Bill has got over 25,000 signatures. The government has not yet responded.

Other petitions just started this month include one to recognise nonbinary people and remove the requirement for a medical diagnosis for a GRC, and one to require self-contained gender-neutral toilets with a basin in all new buildings, rather than stalls with communal sinks.

The hate petition to stop the GRR Bill was rejected on 19 December because it was the responsibility of Holyrood not Westminster at the time: it came out just before the 86-39 vote in Edinburgh to pass the Bill.

Holyrood petitions are only open for four weeks, rather than six months in Westminster. There’s one to withdraw the guidance to Scottish schools on supporting trans pupils. Well, at least from that, I learned about the guidance (pdf). The haters can’t avoid spreading good news.

4 thoughts on “Petitioning the government

  1. By the time the right is in full blown panic over cultural issues it is because they have already lost. What is left are attempts to enflame when in reality the average person is either supportive or at the worst neutral on the issue. Women’s rights and those of minorities experienced much the same progression and while hate continues privately unabated it is not permitted to infiltrate public policy.

    Liked by 1 person

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