Stonewall and Amnesty International UK have joined a chorus of voices demanding an apology from Prime Minister Rishi Sunak after he made a joke about trans women in Parliament yesterday (Wednesday 7 February 2024).
Speaking at Prime Minister’s Questions, the Conservative leader ridiculed Labour leader Keir Starmer for U-turning on “defining a woman,” before adding that it was “only 99% of a U-turn.”
Sunak’s comments were witnessed by Esther Ghey, mother of Brianna Ghey, a trans teen who was murdered in a hate crime last year.
Esther had been invited to PMQs in the House of Commons by her local MP, Labour’s Liz Twist.
“Sickening” – Amnesty International UK’s Chiara Capraro on Sunak’s comments
Responding to Sunak, Chiara Capraro, Amnesty International UK’s Gender Justice Director, yesterday said: “The Prime Minister’s comments on trans people were sickening and he should quickly – and unreservedly – apologise.
“If this is the example being set by the Prime Minister, then the situation is truly bleak.
“Today was appalling, but it’s not an isolated instance. Sections of the media and politicians who’ve long indulged in fearmongering, disinformation and dehumanisation of trans people have been contributing to a hostile anti-trans climate.
“Although it should never take a horrific hate crime to spark a degree of reflection, it’s not too late to change course.
“Standing up for trans people is important for everyone, and if we undermine the human rights of a small group of people there will be damaging consequences for all of us.”
“Cheap, callous and crass”
A Stonewall spokesperson added: “For the Prime Minister to use trans people as a punchline, in front of the grieving mother of a murdered trans child, was cheap, callous and crass. The disrespect and dehumanisation of trans people that we see played out daily in the media and in our political discourse has real life consequences and it has to stop.
“We call on the Prime Minister to apologise unreservedly for his comments, and for him to reflect on how careless words from those in power can and do result in harm.”
Ghey’s father Peter Spooner meanwhile told Sky News: “As the Prime Minister for our country to come out with degrading comments like he did, regardless of them being in relation to discussions in Parliament, they are absolutely dehumanising.
“Identities of people should not be used in that manner, and I personally feel shocked by his comments and feel he should apologise for his remarks.”
Scarlett Jenkinson and Eddie Ratcliffe were sentenced to life in prison on 2 February 2024 for murdering Ghey on 11 February 2023.
Jenkinson was given a minimum of 22 years. Ratcliffe was given a minimum of 20 years.
No 10 has defended Mr Sunak’s remarks as “legitimate”, while Equalities Minister Kemi Badenoch also defended her Conservative colleague.
“Every murder is a tragedy,” Badenoch said on X yesterday. “None should be trivialised by political point-scoring. As a mother, I can imagine the trauma that Esther Ghey has endured. It was shameful of Starmer to link his own inability to be clear on the matter of sex and gender directly to her grief.
“As Minister for Women and Equalities I’ve done all I can to ensure we have take the heat out of the debate on LGBT issues while being clear about our beliefs and principles. Keir Starmer’s behaviour today shows Labour are happy to weaponise this issue when it suits them.”